39 Ways to Recycle at School

This post contains affiliate links. Read more in the Terms of Use & Disclosure link.


Chloe Wilson; Sammi Rosenberg
Creative Commons License photo credit: Montgomery Cty Division of Solid Waste Services

Have you noticed how schools accumulate a ton of waste? Many materials that are used and generated in schools can be recycled, such as electronic waste, food and books. Often, the biggest challenge is that paper is not recycled. Learn how to reduce this waste, and find opportunities to influence the future of your school and fellow students or teachers in the post below. Use this quick, easy guide to help you practice the 3 Rs and score top marks with tons of ways to recycle at school.

Keep in mind that recyclers in your area may accept only some of these materials. Look for any reuse and recycling programs that are already underway in your area, or through the National Recycling Programs that we have highlighted.

Waste reduction includes these activities that you probably already do:

One of the most important ways to start recycling at school is to have separate containers for recyclable materials and trash. Separating trash and recycling works best if the two containers clearly labeled, are  kept next to each other and are different colors, such as black for trash and blue for recycling. If students and teachers can’t find the right container, it will be harder for recycling to catch on.

If you’re considering any type of recycling programs for your schools, check with school administrators, building superintendents, and even the fire marshal regarding storage containers and collection do’s and don’ts. For example, most types of paper can be recycled, such as white copy and computer paper, letterhead, notebook paper, envelopes, colored paper, file folders, sticky notes, and paper bags. Storing paper for recycling, however, might have specific requirements to prevent fire hazards.

Bonus: Your school can earn a cash prize for recycling paper- learn more!

Now for ways to recycle at school and cut back on waste!

Reduce Waste: The Classroom

  • Give assignments that do not need to be written
  • Minimize handouts distributed
  • Copy and print on both sides of paper
  • Spell check and proof documents on screen instead of on printouts
  • Post assignments and documents online
  • Copy materials onto a CD or flash drive
  • Use supplies purchased in bulk
  • Use old magazines for art projects
  • Many schools have an Environmental Club or Green Clubs- involve these school clubs in waste reduction programs.

Reuse or Donation

Reduce Waste: Administrative Offices

  • Update mailing lists to avoid unnecessary mailings
  • Print addresses directly on envelopes instead of using labels
  • Replace fax cover sheets with “stick-on” information
  • Offer mugs to staff instead of disposable cups
  • Route memos electronically
  • Buy and use supplies purchased in bulk
  • Repair broken equipment instead of purchasing more
  • Reduce the amount of junk mail you receive by using our tips
  • Reuse incoming packaging for outgoing shipments
  • Reuse office supplies, such as folders and binders
  • Establish “clean out the office” days and reuse or donate the collected materials
  • Use cloth-towel machines or air dryers in restrooms rather than paper towels
  • Donate used furnishings and equipment

Reduce Waste: The Library

  • Consider online subscriptions to reference materials, magazines, newspapers, and blogs such as this one using RSS feeds.
  • Start a book and magazine exchange, or share books online using bookcrossing.com – Trees will love you!

Reduce Waste: The Cafeteria

  • Buy food in bulk
  • Use bulk dispensers for condiments Implement an “offer versus serve” program, where students select only the foods they intend to eat, reducing the amount of food thrown away.
  • Encourage students and staff to bring lunch from home in reusable containers
  • Donate edible food to shelters
  • Inedible food may be provided the local organizations for animal feed
  • Compost food scraps to use on school grounds. Check local regulations before starting a composting program.
  • You can even recycle juiceboxes depending on where you live.

Remember, before starting your program, contact local or state environmental agencies to find out what local ordinances might apply. If you plan to compost on a large scale, please work with local solid waste and health officials.

Sometimes, challenges might arise when you’re trying to get folks to recycle at schools. Remember to keep your messages positive and do what you can. Post flyers around the school, in the cafeteria and hallways, describing your school recycling program and letting everyone know which materials are accepted.

Happy recycling!

Links to products featured on RecycleScene are affiliate links. We try and only feature products that close the recycling loop. Make a purchase of recommended products on our site, and we get a small percentage of affiliate commission to maintain our site. Thanks!


Leave a reply