How To Recycle At School {Explained!}

By Rebekah Pierce

Are you looking for ways to help the environment and make your school a more sustainable place? If so, recycling is a great way to start! Check out these tips on how to recycle at school.

Is Recycling Taught In Schools?

In some states and cities, local governments require all schools to teach recycling as part of the school curriculum. 

These recycling programs are essential because they can help teach kids to make good changes in the world.

There are special programs that show kids how the items you use every day can be recycled. They help make kids more aware of the environment and provide them with resources on what can be recycled and how. 

These recycling programs show, explain, and allow students to practice recycling common items. 

Recycling Facts For Schools

If you’re a teacher, you might be interested in teaching your students some of these helpful recycling facts:

  • Recycling just one ton of paper can save more than a dozen (up to 17!) trees.
  • Recycling just one aluminum can conserves enough energy to power a computer or television for three hours.
  • Recycling saves about 25 to 30% of all the energy used to make brand new items.
  • As Americans, we throw away enough plastic bottles each year to go around the world four times. 
  • There’s enough energy conserved every year by recycling steel to provide Los Angeles with electricity for nearly a decade!

You can view more fun and helpful recycling facts for schools here. If you’re a teacher who wants to teach kids how to recycle at school, keep reading to learn more about how you can get involved.

Recycling At School Ideas

Here are a few fun ways to bring recycling into the classroom. 

Use Writing Prompts

One of the easiest ways to encourage recycling in school is to have your student complete a daily or weekly journal writing activity in which they complete recycling-themed prompts. Some good prompts include:

  • How is composting different from recycling?
  • What could happen if everyone stopped recycling?
  • What could happen if everyone started recycling?
  • What are some ways you can reduce, reuse, and recycle in your own life?

Introduce Recycling Lessons

Integrating recycling directly in the curriculum is another option. It doesn’t matter what subject you teach – there are recycling lessons out there that can be adapted to just about any topic, be it English or Mathematics.

Hold A Clothing Swap or Drive

This isn’t just a great way to recycle – it’s also a wonderful way to help kids in need.

Go On A Field Trip

Does your community have a recycling center nearby? Why not pay them a visit? Seeing recycling in action may be a better motivator for your kids than simply hearing about it secondhand. 

Have A Guest Speaker 

Do you know a parent, another teacher, or someone else who really cares about recycling and going green? If so, you may want to invite them into the classroom to speak. 

Hold A Contest 

There’s no better way to encourage kids to recycle than to inspire a bit of healthy competition! Put out a few recycling bins and start collecting. You can divide the class up into two to four different teams or challenge another class entirely. You could also have a teachers vs. students contest!

Just make sure there’s a great reward for the winner – this is a great way to get kids to recycle. 

Make It A Game

Make sure your students have fun as they’re learning how to recycle! Use sticker charts or other trackers to make sure your students know that you see their efforts. Playing games and offering prizes for recycling is a great way to turn kids into lifelong recyclers. 

Upcycle Old Plastic Containers

Encourage your students to bring their old plastic containers (like plastic egg cartons, yogurt tubs, or plastic water bottles) into school. Then, challenge them to come up with creative new uses for those old containers, like gardening planters or crayon holders.

Create Posters

Hanging posters is a great way to send a strong message to your kids – and these are messages they’ll see every day. You can go one step further and invite your students to create their own posters to display.

Have A Prize Bag

We’ve mentioned prizes and rewards a few times in this post – that’s because they work! You can take things to the next level by putting together a prize bag of reused or recycled items. These could be toys from kids’ meals at restaurants, freebies from professional development events, and other odds and ends. Encourage kids to bring in their own from home and contribute some of your own.

Then, when kids meet any of the recycling goals and milestones as described above, they can have the opportunity to pick from the prize bag themselves.

Start An Environmental Club

Once you’ve convinced everyone in your classroom to go green, it’s time to get the rest of the school on board! Encourage your students to be the biggest green ambassadors by starting a club. 

Create A Vermicomposting Bin

Vermicomposting sounds complex – but really, this is just a term that refers to composting with worms. The worms will eat food waste and other unwanted biodegradable waste (like coffee grounds) and turn it into compost. 

Plant A Tree

…and once you have all that nutritious compost, what will you do with it? Recycle it! You can put it back into the earth by planting a tree and using the compost to fertilize it. It’s a great way to put all of your efforts to good use. 

Free Recycling Programs For Schools

Another idea you can try if you want to teach kids how to recycle at school is to have them research programs that can handle recycling the most difficult items. 

You can do this for conventional items, like paper and plastic, but you can also encourage them to get creative and find new ways for recycling things like old electronics or broken crayons.

And if you want to provide them with even more resources, consider linking them up with these free recycling programs for schools: 

  • Recycle Rally – this free recycling program for K-12 schools has dozens of free sources to help kids recycle at school. 
  • ABC Promise Partnershipoffered by Green Tree Plastics, this partnership includes a registration in which you must promise that kids will learn from the experience. 
  • Carton2Garden Contest – this contest for recycling empty juice and milk cartons has a grand prize of $5,000!
  • Grades of Green – you can compete for grants with this free school recycling program 
  • Ronald McDonald House – with the Ronald McDonald House, you can collect pop tabs for aluminum cans and donate them for charitable causes. 

How Can We Improve Recycling At School?

It is important for everyone, especially our youngest generation, to learn about recycling and how they can make a difference in the world. We hope this guide has helped you see that recycling at school is easy and can be done with little effort. 

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