Discover what you can do to keep the planet beautiful and safe for your child.
Playing with battery-powered toys seems to be a completely innocent activity. But is it? Household batteries might be small but they are so toxic that most batteries are considered hazardous waste. Batteries contain metals and toxic or corrosive materials that can leach into the soil.
Some of these toxic metals include mercury, lead, cadmium and nickel. Even rechargeable batteries leach mercury into the soil. And mercury is highly poisonous to humans.
To minimise the impact your child’s play has on the environment:
- Opt for toys that don’t require power where possible
- Invest in rechargeable batteries to power battery operated toys
- Switch off battery run toys when not in use
- If the battery packaging doesn’t say what it contains, don’t buy it
- If you do need to use batteries, buy lithium batteries.
We should be able to easily drop off our batteries - even small rechargeable ones - for recycling in South Africa. But at the moment this isn’t easy to do.
Although facilities exist in the country to recycle large quantities of automotive and other batteries, these companies need large quantities of batteries to collect or it is not worth the expense of collecting them.
Lobby battery manufacturers and retailers such as supermarkets to set up battery recycling points in stores and arrange for these small but potentially dangerous cells to be recycled.
Ask your child’s pre-school or school to set up a battery bin, where parents can drop of their batteries for recycling. Organise collections and then take them to a suitable facility or get the battery manufacturers and retailers to do this.
Thinking of big school?
If you’re still choosing your child’s preschool and primary school, you’re probably formulating a list of questions to ask during the visit.
Remember to ask potential schools if they are part of the Eco-Schools programme. Schools, especially private ones, are like businesses. They respond to consumer demand. The more parents request this, the more schools will join the programme. And that means a greener education for your child.
Since the initiative began in South Africa five years ago, 828 schools have registered in the programme. Interest is growing, but many more schools could benefit by becoming Eco-Schools.
The Eco-Schools programme is an internationally recognised award scheme that accredits schools that are committed to sustainable environmental management and encourage curriculum-based action for a greener environment.
In South Africa, the programme is managed by the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA), in partnership with the Department of Education. It is funded by packaging company Nampak through the World Wildlife Fund South Africa. For more information contact the Eco-Schools co-ordinators on (033) 330 3931 or email email@example.com
Fish from murky waters
Fish is a fantastic source of Omega-3 fatty acids and iron for children. It is fundamental for brain development and a healthy heart. That’s why nutritionists recommend you eat fish twice a week.
But US and European health authorities have also issued warnings to the public about how much fish and what kinds of fish are safe to eat for pregnant women and children. Certain types of fish tend to have a higher concentration of mercury than others, but levels vary depending on where fish are caught.
According to The American Heart Association, you should avoid feeding your child shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish as they contain the highest levels of mercury.
Your child should still eat fish twice a week, but rather go for canned, light tuna, salmon, haddock, anchovies, hake, sole, trout, sardines, Pollock and catfish, which contain lower levels of mercury.
In South Africa mercury levels in our water and in our fish have not been extensively studied. But this is set to change. This year the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is setting up a large-scale mercury reference laboratory as part of the South African Mercury Assessment (SAMA) programme.
If you have any relevant green facts or product information please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can help create a greener world.
Frys Metals recycle used batteries but only if collected in very large quantities.