5 Ways Teachers Can Encourage Their Students To Recycle

As a teacher, you are always striving to instill good habits into your students. One of the easiest ways to help your students support their school and improve the environment is to get them actively involved in recycling. Most schools have recycling programs for bottles, aluminum cans, and paper. However, you can get your students more excited and diligent in their recycling efforts using some of the suggestions below. 

1. Fundraise For Your Class

School recycling brings revenue back to the school, but additional recycling efforts could bring revenue back to your class. Encourage your students to collect bottles and cans from home in a special classroom recycling project. Help student practice math skills by calculating how much revenue the cans will bring in and how many they will need to collect in order to raise funds for a goal the students choose. Having the students decide how the money will be spent is a great motivator. Some suggestions you might give them include:

  • new classroom supplies, like felt pens, calculators, or paint.
  • funding a pizza party for the last day of school.
  • donating to a local charity or disaster relief fund.
  • buying a new TV to use for classroom videos, journalism segments, or other audio-visual presentations. 
  • new novels for the classroom library.
  • a new computer to use in the classroom, with educational games that students can play during free time or lunch periods. 

Students can really get excited about raising their own money to help make classroom learning even better for them. If students choose a charity or relief fund, you can build the recycling effort into your curriculum for a research and writing unit. 

2. Provide Tangible Rewards.

Besides the reward of what the funds themselves will buy, you can also encourage students by giving them non-monetary rewards. For example, if a student consistently brings in recyclables that they collect from family or neighbors, they could earn extra silent reading time, a free homework pass, or an opportunity to be a classroom aide for the day instead of doing basic student work. Students who are avid recyclers could even compete with another class to see who could recycle the most, which will help with classroom community building. The winning class could earn a field trip or an afternoon outside, or a large candy bar for each student. 

3. Give Class Time For Recycling.

Show that recycling is important by spending class time to make it happen. For example, if students are bringing in items from home to recycle, take the last ten minutes of the day to carefully count the bottles and cans and sort them, adding the totals. Take the bottles to a place like Main Street Fibers weekly, and keep a running tally on the board for students to see how much they have already earned through their efforts. 

4. Build Recycling Into Your Science Unit.

Recycling is an integral part of using resources correctly and taking care of the earth. If one of your units deals with the earth and natural resources, you can spend time teaching children the larger benefits of recycling. For example, if students learn that over 75% of aluminum that has ever been produced in the United States since the early 20th century is still in use today, they can start to see more value in a soda pop can, reducing the chance they will simply throw it away. 

5. Take Your Class To See Recycling In Action

Finally, if you have a budget for field trips, taking your class to see a bottle depot or recycling plant for an afternoon can help them see where all their hard recycling work pays off. Students like to see visuals and apply their knowledge. They also will feel like what they are doing is more important once they are able to see their own contribution to their community.