How to encourage children to recycle in schools

Encouraging children to recycle can be difficult to achieve as many of them just don’t understand how vital it is to protect our planet. With children of all ages spending a large part of their day at school, it makes sense that this is one of the places where they begin to reuse and recycle their waste and learn more about the importance of doing so!


As a respected authority figure, teachers have a great influence over what matters to their pupils. This is why they are the perfect people to instil these habits in children at a young age to ensure the health of the Earth not just for our generation, but for generations to come. Additionally, schools, universities and other educational facilities should be working to increase their recycling due to the large amounts of waste they produce. According to WRAP (the Waste & Resources Action Programme), the education sector in the UK creates around 210,700 tonnes of waste a year. Statistics from CS Recycling also show that paper is the main recyclable material that’s generated by schools, and it accounts for at least 25% of their total waste. This material is closely followed by cardboard packaging for recyclable material.

 So, how can encourage children to recycle in schools?

Before you start focusing on what your students can do, you need to ensure your school has the correct procedures, facilities and resources in place to help recycling become a priority for everyone. If your teachers aren’t doing their bit to save the planet, then how can you expect your pupils to do the same?

Here are just some of the things schools and other educational facilities should be doing to encourage recycling and reduce their environmental impact:

 Reduce plastic and paper usage

 With schools being estimated to use one billion sheets of paper a year, you should be aiming to reduce your facility’s usage levels, as well as recycle the amount of paper waste you create. Some simple steps you can take include moving certain processes online, such as providing tablets and laptops for pupils to take notes on, swapping paper classroom registers for digital ones, and sending communications to pupils’ parents by email, instead of mailing letters.

 Plastic waste is also one of the biggest threats to our planet. Not only can it sit in landfill sites for up to 1,000 years where it releases harmful greenhouse gases (such as CO2) into the air, but it also ends up in our seas and oceans, where they endanger aquatic life. With that in mind, one way you can encourage your pupils to bring reusable water bottles to school instead of buying plastic bottled water is by investing in water coolers.

 Make it easier for students to recycle

 One of the easiest ways to simplify recycling and encourage children to do so is by making it a simple task. As a starting point, you should have a number of accessible recycling bins located throughout the school, and these should be clearly labelled so your students know which waste products should go in each bin. Putting up posters explaining which everyday items should be put in which bin will also make it easier for younger pupils to get this right.

 Another way to encourage young children to recycle more is to incentives them to do so. This can be as simple as asking them to bring their recyclable materials into school and giving them rewards (such as sweets, small toys, and certificates) for doing so. As an example, the student that recycles the most waste each month could win the reward, encouraging other students to follow suit.

 If you’re concerned about the extra waste your school will have to deal with, investing in a waste baler or compactor provides an easy way to segregate these materials. These materials can then be sold to recycling companies, giving you an opportunity to earn money from your waste as you help the Earth!


Educate your pupils and make it fun

 Finally, you should be educating your pupils on the importance of recycling, and the impact that waste ending up in landfill and our seas and oceans will have on the Earth and its inhabitants. However, make sure you do more than simply tell them it’s something they should be doing! Make them more socially conscious by showing them the impact through visual means, such as documentaries and images, and explain what not making changes to our environment will mean to them in 30 years.

 Fortunately, environmental consciousness is a topic that can be easily incorporated into your school’s curriculum through subjects such as Geography, and even Business and Art. In Business, you can make this fun by setting your students a challenge of coming up with the most eco-friendly business idea. If possible, you could even get sponsorship from local businesses. Alternately, in Art, you can encourage them to reuse their waste by using it to create new things!

 When encouraging children and young adults to care about the environmental, it’s also important to make it something they want to do, and not something they merely feel obliged to do. If older students think it’s fun and cool to recycle, then they’ll be more willing to make the effort to do so. With that in mind, you should also be educating them on role models to take inspiration from such as Meryl Streep,

Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk himself). All of these influential figures have been extremely vocal about the importance of helping the environment.

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