School Recycling Projects

School Recycling

School recycling projects provide children and young people with hands-on experience that helps them grow to see that efforts to cut the wasteful use of resources does make a difference. A variety of proactive activities can be used to teach children to take responsibility for keeping the earth cleaner and to learn to help the environment for a better future.

Why Implement School Recycling Projects?

School recycling projects are most often initiated by the school district and usually focus on three key areas:

  • Better resource management
  • Cultivate student achievement
  • Reduction of waste

Recycling is necessary to reduce waste in homes, schools and work places. On average, each American generates about four pounds of trash daily! That doesn't sound like much until you do the math. That's three quarters of a ton in just one year! Multiply that times however many years that person lives and the numbers are astounding.

It's easy to stick our heads in the sand, put the trash out to the curb each week and have it taken away. Out of sight, out of mind. A school recycling project can help make children aware of where all that trash goes and the fact that it is go doesn't just go away. It's important to bring landfills to the attention of future generations, because they are the ones that will have to live with the consequences.


Teaching about landfills and recycling is a great opportunity to show children a better way. It's an opportunity to let them know that 80 percent of the trash filling our landfills actually could be recycled and the materials used to manufacture new products. With budget cuts, some schools may worry about implementing another program, but recycling at the school level offers the children a practical lesson and it can be both affordable and efficient and in some cases even generate funds to help support the project.

School Recyclables

Among items recycled school items, paper is the most significant cost-saving waste reduction. Just think of how much paper a school uses. As a result, paper makes up 50 to 60 percent of school waste. The advantage to paper is that it can be either reused or recycled. When paper is used on both sides and fully as scratch paper or for making copies, school paper costs drop dramatically. Beyond that savings, the amount of trash a school pays to have hauled away would also significantly decrease. This in effect will save money for trash removal.

Before you read the following list, it's important to note that your garbage company is the one who will determine what materials your school can recycle. You can ask them about the following materials popularly recycled in schools:

  • Aluminum: A popular recycling material for many schools because aluminum cans are easily sold. Recycling aluminum may even lead to a moderate cash flow that can be used to help fund other projects.
  • Corrugated cardboard: Collecting and recycling corrugated cardboard is another way schools can benefit from eliminating waste. In some cases, garbage companies will provide a special container for the collection of cardboard. This helps schools in a couple of ways. First, the very bulkiness of boxes uses up valuable dumpster space which the school pays for. When cardboard is collected in a special container, it is broken down to take up less space. This process frees up space in the main dumpster, and as a result the school's disposal costs should go down.
  • Plastics and other container materials: Recycling projects in some schools collect all kinds of beverage and food containers. These include materials like;
    • Steel
    • Glass
    • Various types of plastic

It's important to recycle these kinds of materials because they are manufactured from natural resources that are irreplaceable.

  • Organic waste: Organic waste is waste that decomposes. Not everyone stops to think of all the organic waste generated in schools, but there is plenty of it. Think of the yard waste from cutting the schools lawn, or the garbage from the cafeteria.

How to Start

Recycling school trash does take coordination and leadership. Many times it will require working with more than one garbage company to serve all your recycling needs. Look for a company that specializes in working with schools. Do your research. Not every trash company works the same way. Some of them charge to pick up recyclables and others will do it at no charge. In a few cases, you may be lucky enough to find a company willing to pay the school for their recyclables.

Hands-on Activities for Students

Hands-on recycling activities are a great opportunity to engage students in learning life skills. In the process, students will have to use their math skills, as well as science, social studies and communication skills. It's a great way to build teamwork and hone problem-solving skills. Teachers can find a number of interactive resources available for environmental educational:

For more information you can download a School Recycling Guide for specifics to get you started.

School Recycling Projects