Jars to show recycling stages including Repair and Rot

Many individuals understand the concept that is recycling; the bottles and cans go here, paper goes there, garbage goes in the garbage. These basics tend to develop naturally as we grow from children to teenagers to adults through what can be seen in cafeterias and classrooms in schools; typically dictated based off the imagery provided. Some classrooms will go a step further to help students inherit the knowledge of not only what items go where, but also why they are separated into their own collection bins. But how are some of these concepts perceived by students? How are they not only beneficial, but also how do students absorb this information for the better so that they can continue to understand the purpose of sorting for waste reduction? Let’s take a look!

The Youngest Age Group: K-3

The younger a student is, the more perceptive they are as their brains are developing. Though, the younger ones in the K-3 category may not be able to comprehend the multitude of why recycling and waste reduction is important, they can gain the simple understanding of what items go where through other forms of games and activities in the classroom; using creative activities such as making their own paper or how one item can be broken down and turned into something else. This is also a great age range to begin introducing students to the 3 R’s of recycling as well. Creative facets are very important when students are at this age as, though they may not know it yet, these activities help form the basis for understanding the purpose of recycling and waste reduction.

Asis & Photo Adobe Stock Craft with Recycled Materials

Reusing Yogurt Containers for an Art Craft.

Expanding Their Knowledge: Grades 4-7

As students get older, say grades 4-7, you can look at different methods to keep students engaged while teaching them the importance of recycling and waste reduction. It is possible to expand upon the 3Rs with 2 more known as “Rot” and “Reflect”; “Rot” is known to dictate composting as a method of waste reduction whereas “Reflect” guides students in reflecting upon their own experiences. Furthermore, this age range allows students to grasp concepts easier and you can start to put forward the necessary information to what it is that recycling and waste reduction does on a grander scale; how bottles can be repurposed into new bottles, how recycling items allows for other items they may have seen such as newspapers or fast-food cup holders are made from recycled content.

Asis & Photo Adobe Stock Recycling Methods

Visual Examples of Refuse, Reduce, Recycle, Reuse, Repair and Rot.

Working as a Team: Grades 8-12

There are many ways to educate students with regards to recycling and waste reduction; with the older group of students from grades 8-12, you can look at teaching through the means of a more discussion and team led experience while also keeping things hands on. A couple of options for this would be exploring the fundamentals of waste and provide an understanding of how critical waste management and recycling truly is with regards to the future. You may also give the power to the students with the form of a “Green Team” to raise awareness of the importance of recycling from their own perspectives. As mentioned as well, there are some other hands-on activities that both instill the creativity from before while also creating education in the moment; one of these, as presented by PepsiCo’s recycle rally lessons, is a pop bottle planter. The concept involves creating a desk planter with the use of a 2L pop bottle; the concept is simple, but it does educate on how recyclables can be one thing in the moment but, through certain methods, can be turned into something else.

The Future of Recycling

Educating younger people as they are students is imperative to assist them when they reach adulthood and by instilling the proper manners and importance of recycling will grant them the ability to make the best conscious choices to help the planet for following generations. It simply takes the proper time and effort to truly create the proper sources to allow students to understand how important recycling and waste reduction truly is and there are even more ways to do so that was not presented here. For a more in-depth analysis of K-12 recycling and waste reduction, you can check out the blog written by our Senior Advisor, Alec Cooley here

Asis & Photo Adobe Stock Recycling Methods

Visual Examples of Refuse, Reduce, Recycle, Reuse, Repair and Rot.




Additional Resources
The below sources were not only used to assist in writing this blog, but they also contain further information and learning plans for K-12 setting that can be very helpful in educating on recycling and waste reduction, the procedures, and its importance.

Education Ideas to Inspire K-12 Students to Recycle

What a Waste: Trash, Recycling, and Protecting our Planet

41 Fun Recycling Activities for the Classroom – We Are Teachers

Free K-12 Lessons to Engage Students in Recycling and Waste Topics

For Educators | Recycling Simplified

Sustainable Classrooms: How to Reuse School Supplies and Save the Planet

Supporting Carton and Recycling Education in Canadian Schools | Carton Council