Tell them they can make money by recycling. Make an extra bin just for recyclables, and bring it into your local recycling center when it is full. You can make some extra cash this way, a few cents per item but it adds up when you consume many products. This may convince your parents to recycle more.
Ask them why they don’t, and then give them counter-arguments. For example, say they don’t think it’s worth the effort. Research and show them (with examples) on how recycling conserves items that normally get thrown in the trash. Get creative. If their worries are alleviated, they may consider changing their minds.
I’d make it easy on them. If possible get the various bins set up yourself. Make sure they are very clearly labeled and start recycling. Eventually, if the aluminum recycling bin is right next to the garbage they may make the choice. After a while, point out how much less garbage is being produced–if you have home pick up they may be able to switch to a smaller (cheaper!) garbage can.
Don’t preach. Don’t hound. Simply place a plastic tub beside the trashcan and gently suggest that glass, plastics, papers, and aluminums can go there if anyone is so inclined. When you see recyclables in the trash, take them out and put them in the recycle bin. Keep your attitude in check. Show by example and be patient. My guess is, eventually, guilt and your excellent civil-citizen example will lead the way toward revolution on the home front.
Consider taking your parents on a field trip to the city dump. It’s a really alarming sight, and a visceral reminder of why recycling is so important—the sheer smell alone of the dump may help to convince them that recycling is a better option than contributing to a landfill. Also, just to reiterate what others have said, make recycling as easy as possible, and set an example for them by recycling yourself. Just getting used to having a recycling bin around may help them to get in the habit without even realizing it.
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