How To Recycle School Supplies: The Ultimate Guide


By now, you’d think recycling would be a regular part of life for most people, but as it turns out, America’s recycling rate is at a shockingly low 21.4%. It’s time to step up our game, and schools are one of the best places to start! When you model good recycling behavior for your students, they’ll make it part of their lives going forward. Learn how to recycle school supplies and other common classroom materials, and your school can take a big leap forward in environmental responsibility.

What are the easiest school supplies and materials to recycle?

With so many communities offering their own recycling programs these days, it’s easier than ever to keep trash out of landfills. These are some of the most common materials accepted in local recycling bins, as well as some tips and helpful hints.

Paper and Cardboard

Almost all paper and cardboard can be recycled, even if it’s been written or printed on. There are some exceptions though, including paper soiled with food residue, or paper with glitter or other embellishments. Check with your local program to see what they can and can’t accept.

Both thin and thick cardboard can usually go in the bin, including old folders and packing boxes. Don’t forget to recycle items like empty crayon boxes and the wrappings around reams of paper too.

Paper Recycling Tip for Schools

Keep a box in your classroom for paper that can be reused as scrap, especially paper that's only been used on one side. Once it's totally used up, add it to your classroom paper recycling bin.- recycle school supplies

Keep a box in your classroom for paper that can be reused as scrap, especially paper that’s only been used on one side. Once it’s totally used up, add it to your classroom paper recycling bin.

Metal

Most people know that aluminum cans and other scrap metal can almost always be recycled, as can aluminum foil. But did you know you can also recycle school supplies like paper clips and even staples? Most recycling plants catch these as part of their paper recycling, but you can also remove them first and toss them in the bin.

Metal Recycling Tip for Schools

Some people like to crush their empty aluminum cans to save space, but not all recycling programs accept them that way. Be sure to ask before crushing yours.

Some people like to crush their empty aluminum cans to save space, but not all recycling programs accept them that way. Be sure to ask before crushing yours.

Plastic Containers

Plastic is a little trickier to recycle, because you’ll need to check for the recycling symbol and the number included in it. Most communities recycle #1, #2, and sometimes #5 plastics. This usually includes beverage bottles, milk jugs, and the like. Be sure to empty them first, and find out if your community wants the caps placed back on or kept separate.

Plastic Recycling Tip for Schools

Plastic glue bottles, empty glitter containers, and other plastic containers may be recyclable too. Check the ID code number first, and get more tips from Elmer's here.

Plastic glue bottles, empty glitter containers, and other plastic containers may be recyclable too. Check the ID code number first, and get more tips from Elmer’s here.

Glass

You may not have a lot of glass in your classroom, but if you do, it’s one of the most recyclable materials of all. Although some communities don’t accept colored glass, most will take any empty glass containers or bottles.

Glass Recycling Tip for Schools

Accidents happen, but you can't put broken glass in the recycling bin. Wrap it carefully in paper and place it in the regular trash.

Accidents happen, but you can’t put broken glass in the recycling bin. Wrap it carefully in paper and place it in the regular trash.

More Ways To Recycle School Supplies and Materials

While these items take a little extra effort, many school supplies can still be recycled. If not, there are always options for reusing and donating. Try these ideas.

Plastic Bags

There are lots of ways to reuse plastic grocery store bags, but eventually they’ll get torn or worn out. Plus, most people wind up with far more of them than they can ever really use! The good news is that nearly all grocery store chains accept plastic bags and films for recycling. Collect extra by stuffing them into one bag, and when it’s full, drop it off on your next grocery run.

Plastic Bags Recycling Tip for Schools

Create a classroom collection bin for students to bring their plastic bags from home. Not all parents have the time (or are willing) to recycle them, so give kids an opportunity at school instead.- recycle school supplies

Create a classroom collection bin for students to bring their plastic bags from home. Not all parents have the time (or are willing) to recycle them, so give kids an opportunity at school instead.

Markers

Wondering how to recycle markers? First, make sure you’ve tried reviving them using tricks like these. (You can also turn them into watercolor paint!) But if they’re truly done, you can collect and recycle them through Terracycle.

Markers Recycling Tip for Schools

Refillable dry-erase markers have been hitting the market in recent years. They can be a great way to save on landfill waste and money too. This option from Pilot has tons of terrific reviews on Amazon!

Refillable dry-erase markers have been hitting the market in recent years. They can be a great way to save on landfill waste and money too. This option from Pilot has tons of terrific reviews on Amazon!

Pencils and Pens

Are pencils recyclable? Well, not exactly. But you can use them down to the last possible inch (some kids take great delight in it!). Then, if you remove the metal ferrule and eraser from the end, you can toss them onto a compost heap. You can do the same with pencil shavings.

Pens are trickier. If they’re refillable, you can replace the ink supply and go on using them. Otherwise, the only real option is through a program like Terracycle. You can also check with local office supply stores to see if they collect them for free recycling.

Pencils and Pens Recycling Tip for Schools

When students are cleaning out their desks and getting ready to toss old pencils and pens, ask them to drop them in a collection box instead. You can keep those on-hand for future students who forget theirs in class.- recycle school supplies

When students are cleaning out their desks and getting ready to toss old pencils and pens, ask them to drop them in a collection box instead. You can keep those on hand for future students who forget theirs in class.

Crayons

We all know there’s nothing better than a brand-new box of unused crayons. But it doesn’t take long for them to wear down or break. If you’re ready to break out some new boxes, don’t toss the old ones in the trash. Instead, donate them to the National Crayon Recycle Program.

Crayons Recycling Tip for Schools

There are lots of ways to make use of old crayons! Melt them down to make new ones, use them to create art projects ... find even more ideas here!

There are lots of ways to make use of old crayons! Melt them down to make new ones, use them to create art projects … find even more ideas here!

Binders

Can you recycle binders? Not usually. If they’re made of cardboard, you can remove any metal fittings and recycle them along with the rest of your paper. Otherwise, it’s best to remove and recycle any paper in your binders, then donate them to a thrift shop or local charitable organization.

Binders Recycling Tip for Schools

School recycling tip: Consider setting up a

School recycling tip: Consider setting up a “Gently Used School Supplies Center” at your school, where students and teachers can donate unwanted items like binders for others to take and use as needed.

Ink and Toner Cartridges

Office supply stores like Office Depot and Staples not only accept your used cartridges for recycling, they’ll even reward you for them! Each store has its own programs, ranging from points in their rewards program to cash back on future purchases.

School Recycling Tip: Try a mail-in recycling program like InkRecycling, which pays cash for your cartridges. Each is only worth a small amount, but if you collect from families too, you can use this as an easy fundraiser.- recycle school supplies

School recycling tip: Try a mail-in recycling program like InkRecycling, which pays cash for your cartridges. Each is only worth a small amount, but if you collect from families too, you can use this as an easy fundraiser.

Batteries

Many electronics and home improvement stores accept rechargeable (lithium-ion) batteries for recycling once they won’t hold a charge anymore. Your community might recycle household (alkaline) batteries; check to see what’s available locally. (Always dispose of used batteries of any type responsibly and safely.)

Batteries Recycling Tip for Schools

Don't assume all the batteries in an item have gone bad just because it's not working anymore. Invest a few dollars in a battery tester and check them before tossing. You can even make this a classroom job!

Don’t assume all the batteries in an item have gone bad just because it’s not working anymore. Invest a few dollars in a battery tester and check them before tossing. You can even make this a classroom job!

Electronics

Schools are full of devices these days, and sometimes they break beyond the point of repair. You don’t need to dump them in the trash, though: Places like Best Buy will recycle your electronics for free.

Electronics Recycling Tip for Schools

Always be sure to completely wipe all data off a device before recycling. Do a factory reset, or consult the operating manual for more information.- recycle school supplies

Always be sure to completely wipe all data off a device before recycling. Do a factory reset, or consult the operating manual for more information.

Books and Notebooks

Notebooks are easy to recycle: Just remove any metal or plastic bindings and toss them in the paper/cardboard bin. It’s best to donate used books or upcycle them for craft projects, but if you’ve got some that are really of no use to anyone, you can look into recycling them. Paperbacks are usually pretty easy, but hardbacks and books with treated (shiny) pages can be a little trickier. Check with your local recycling program to find out what they accept.

Books and Notebooks Recycling Tip for Schools

At the end of the year, invite students to strip out any blank pages from their notebooks and add them to your scrap box.

At the end of the year, invite students to strip out any blank pages from their notebooks and add them to your scrap box.

Other School Supplies and Materials

Though your local recycling programs are limited on what they can accept, there are other ways to recycle school supplies. In fact, if you partner with a company like Terracycle, you can even turn it into a fundraiser. Now that’s what we call going green!

Have we missed one of your favorite ways to recycle school supplies? Come and share in the We Are Teachers HELPLINE group on Facebook!

Plus, Ideas Big and Small To Bring Recycling Into the Classroom.



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