Recycling for Kids

Did you know that recycling helps save the planet from things like global warming and rubbish? That’s right, by recycling things such as food packets and old toys, you are reducing the amount that gets put into the rubbish bin. This is a very good thing because rubbish is full of nasty bugs that spread diseases and gases that increase global warming.

But what is recycling? How are things recycled? And what can you do to get more people to recycle?

Read through this leaflet, and by the end of it, you will be able to teach your parents a thing or 2 about recycling.


What is Recycling?

bin3Fun Fact: If we took all of the UK’s rubbish and put it in its biggest lake, it would take 8 months to fill it!

Recycling means making rubbish into something new. Every time you throw something away it gets sent to a landfill. More and more rubbish is piled on top until it is too big and the landfill has to be closed.

The great thing is that most things can be recycled. Every day, clever scientists come up with new ways to make use of things we usually consider rubbish. But what exactly do they do with the recycling?


How are things Recycled?

Toys that you can plug in or use batteries, like your Nintendo or PlayStation, can be recycled but need to be taken to special electrical recycling stations. They will take out all of the pieces and separate them into recycling bins.

Glass, metal, and plastic are all melted down and remade into new things, but paper recycling is a little different.

Landfills, just like this one, release dangerous gases and chemicals. They also destroy animal’s homes and can spread diseases. The rubbish can cause problems for thousands of years.


Check out below the different ways that materials are recycled, and why not have a go at the fun activity for making your own paper at home? Paper making is a great way to use old scraps of paper that are lying around. You could turn your paper into birthday cards, coloured craft card, or name tags.

Paper is recycled by mixing all of the paper together and cleaning it in soapy water. When all of the ink has been washed off, the wet paper is rolled out really thin and left to dry. Recycling centres can create different types of recycled paper, like cardboard or coloured card, by adding different chemicals and colours to the wet paper mixture.



Fun Activity: Making Paper at Home

  1. Get some paper scraps and soak them for about 30 minutes in hot soapy water (dishwashing soap is fine).
  2. Get your parents to mix the wet paper in a blender until it makes a paste. You can even add some food colouring to make fun coloured paper.
  3. Pour the mixture into a large square frying pan and add about 3cm of water. Then press a piece of plastic on top of the mixture, which is the same size as the pan, and squeeze all of the water out.
  4. Lay the plastic with the paper mixture on it on a tea tower and remove the plastic.
  5. Lay another tea towel on top and roll it out with a rolling pin so it is very thin.
  6. Get your parents to iron the mixture and leave it to dry for 24 hours.
  7. Once it is dry, the paper is ready to use.


When the paper is dry, it may look something like this. It may be a little brittle, but is great for tags and cards.


Glass is recycled by making piles of different coloured glass. The glass piles are then washed and crushed into little glass balls – a little bit like beads. Then all the crushed glass is melted down and put into moulds. It is a bit like baking muffins, except instead of cake mix, you have liquid glass. And rather than baking the cake tins, they are left to cool so the melted glass goes hard. Amazing huh?

Metals and plastics are recycled in a very similar way to glass, except they are shredded into little strips. These are then melted and remoulded into things like drinks cans, food trays, and bottles. Metal is separated from the glass and other recyclables materials using giant magnets. The magnets attract the metal and extract it from the giant piles of rubbish, leaving everything else behind.


How can you Tell what can be Recycled?


Fun Fact: More than half of your rubbish can be recycled!

Whenever you buy food, you should check the wrapper to see if it can be recycled. Most food packets will have little pictures on the back like the ones below. These pictures tell you if the wrapper can be recycled or not.



This picture appears on glass bottles and says the bottle can be recycled at any recycling centre. However, green, brown and clear bottles still need to be put into different bins.



This picture means that the plastic cannot be recycled everywhere.




This picture means that the product cannot be recycled anywhere and should be thrown away.



This picture just means that the product can be recycled. It appears on many different products, including some wrappers, bottles and cardboard.


There are other symbols that appear on packets, but these are ones you have probably seen before. Keep a look out for these and teach your parents the differences between the symbols. Once they have learned the differences between the symbols, you could help them reduce their wastage when they are shopping.

Below are just a few ideas that will help you and your parents reduce your wastage.

  • Always buy things like cheese, cold meat, and chicken from the counters rather than the shelves. By doing this, you can buy exactly the amount you needs, maybe for lunch boxes during the week, and you will not end up throwing any away. Also, counters usually use less packaging than the shelf foods.
  • Rather than buying new jars of things such as coffee, buy one jar and refill it using refill packs. Refill packs cost are usually cheaper and use less packaging. They will almost always come in recyclable packaging as well.
  • Why not help your parents make their own cleaning products? Bicarbonate of soda, the stuff that makes bread and cakes go bubbly, is a great cleaning product. If you mix it with vinegar and lemon juice, it will fizz up and clean grease. It can also be used for getting rid of nasty smells on cloths and in your fridge.


Sorting Rubbish for Recycling


Fun Fact: If we recycled all of the drinks cans in the UK, we could get rid of 14 million dustbins!


Sometimes, each food wrapper will have a different picture. Things that come in both plastic and cardboard sleeves may have pictures that look like this:


This just means that you should separate each part of the wrapper into the right recycling bins. But sorting recycling can be confusing, so if you do have more than 1 bin, have a look at the writing on the side to check what materials it takes.

However, paper, cardboard, and glass bottles should always be placed in different bins. Placing glass bottles and jars in the mixed recycling is dangerous because they can break and injure people.

Some car parks have bins like these ones. They are a bit like banks, except that you give them bottles instead of money. That is why they are called bottle banks.

Bottle banks have different holes for different colour bottles: brown, green, and clear. It makes it easier for the people to recycle the bottles if they are all the same colour.

Whenever your parents go to the supermarket, make sure they take a few bags of rubbish with them and sort them into the bins. This way, you will not need so many bin bags and your parents will save some money.

Even though everything is cleaned in the recycling centre, you should still clean your recycling before putting it in the bin. If you don’t, it could start rotting and attract nasty bugs and flies. Also, some recycling centres will not accept dirty recycling. That means that if just one jar is dirty in a pile of recycling, they will have to throw away the entire pile and waste it. Just a rinse in the sink should be fine for most things.


Fun fact: If we recycled all of the drinks cans in the UK< we could get rid of 14 million dustbins!


Plastics in the Ocean

Fact: Plastic rubbish doesn’t biodegrade. It can stay in the ocean for thousands of years if it isn’t recycled.

See more facts about ocean plastic on our page here.


Making Compost at Home


                  Fun Fact: Plastic can take up to 500 years to break down into compost.


Bananas are scrummy, but what do you do with the peel when you are finished eating it? I bet you throw it in the bin or leave it on the side. Eventually it turns brown and gets covered in flies. This is because bacteria start breaking down the banana for nutrients. Eventually, once the banana has been broken down completely, you will be left with a small pile of compost.

Compost looks a bit like soil and helps make plants grow bigger and healthier. It also helps stops nasty bugs and insects from eating plants. Whenever you throw leftovers into a plastic bag, they break down inside the bag and the nutrients is trapped until the bag decomposes (which can take a very long time).

Instead of throwing everything in the bin, you could make compost bin in your garden. Compost bins can be made from wood and are very easy to build. All you need to do is build a box in the garden, like the one below, and start filling it with plants and food you would have thrown away. Below is a list if things you can and cannot put into a compost bin.



You will be able to tell when it begins turning into compost because it will start to steam. Be careful not to pick any up with your hands because it gets very hot as it breaks down. So much heat that you could burn yourself if you touch it.

Make sure you use a garden fork or spade to move it, and always ask for help from your parents or guardians.

When it is finished, it should look like this below:

Picture11 compost

What is Upcycling?


Fun Fact: The word upcycling is a combination of upgrading (which means making something better) and recycling.


Upcycling is a great way to reuse things you don’t want to throw away. Rather than throwing away old clothes, you could make them into something else. Just ask your parents for some of their old clothes and try turning them into something new – just like the dresses below.


Start Recycling at School

bin6Fun Fact: There are over 34,000 schools in the UK!

How much paper do you use at school? Well, it is used for school books, exercise books, on posters, boxes, and just about everywhere you can see. Teachers would not be able to do their jobs without paper, but what happens to all of this paper? Sadly, without recycling bins, it probably ends up in landfills and becomes useless. Most of the rubbish schools produce is made of paper, which means most school rubbish can be recycled.

Rather than throwing all of your paper into the rubbish bin, ask your teachers to create a special paper bin. All of the schools paper can then be recycled into new paper. You could create bright labels for your bin to make your friends and teachers more interested in using it.

If you have a drinks machine in your classroom, make sure there is a bin next to it for drinks cans. Just like the paper bin, you can decorate it to make it stand out.

Another great way to get your class recycling is by creating a compost heap. All you need to do is make sure there is a bin for unwanted food at the side of the playground. You could even get the kitchen chefs to give you all of their vegetables peels.

The compost can be used to grow vegetables for the school kitchen, for cooking lessons, or to be sold at the school fair. Selling your vegetables and compost at the school fair is a great way to teach others about how great recycling is.

Make sure everyone in your school knows that they are supposed to be recycling. Make bright and colourful posters with instructions about how to recycle – and make sure you tell them where the bins are kept.


Make Pocket Money by Recycling



Fun Fact: In 2003, recycling glass saved enough energy to launch 10 space shuttles!


Did you know that many places pay for rubbish? There are many companies that will pay for old clothes, old fabric, and metal.

Here are a few ideas for making some pocket money by recycling:


Recycling Old Clothes

Keep a bag in the cupboard for old clothes. Clothes like socks are always getting damaged, so keep a bag full of odd socks and clothes that are too small for you. Once you have a full bag, there are companies that will pay for each bag. Always remember to ask your parents/guardians first before you sell any old clothes.

Recycling Metal Cans

Some companies will pay for old drinks cans and scrap pieces of metal. Collect old drinks cans from school, from home, and from your friends to sell for a little extra pocket money. Remember, scrap metal can be very dangerous and should only be handled by an adult.

Recycling Ink Cartridge

Some companies, such as Tesco, offer points to people who recycle their ink cartridges. These points can be used to buy things in their shop. If your mum or dad does not shop at Tesco, then you can sell ink cartridges on some websites. Some of the websites will pay up to £1 for each cartridge. Sell 30 and you should have enough for a new game!

Recycling Old Mobile Phones

You could sell your old mobile phone for some pocket money. You can do this over the internet or by selling it to a shop. Sometimes you can make more money by reselling your mobile phone instead of recycling it, so check with your parents/guardians before you recycle it.

Always make sure you have your parents/guardians permission before you sell anything!


Recycle Old Toys and Clothes by giving them to Charity


Fun Fact: Glass has been found in the ground that is over 3,000 years old!


There are many charities that need your help. A lot of countries in Africa are very poor, and children living there do not have very much. Lots of them don’t even have enough money for school books or new clothes!

By giving your old clothes, toys, books, and pencils to charities like OXFAM, you are reducing your own waste and helping someone else in need.

You can encourage your school to donate to charity by organising a school fair to make some money for a charity. You could even sell some upcycled items or old toys you do not want and donate the money to charity and help someone in need.


Things to Remember.


Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!

Reduce the amount of rubbish you throw away.

Reuse old items to reduce waste.

Recycle anything that can be recycled.


Fun Recycling Websites

There are many great websites that can help you learn all about recycling. Why not check some of them out below:

This interactive game at is a fun way to learn a little bit more about recycling at home and at school. The website also contains lots of great information about how recycling can help you and the planet.

Did you know that NASA, the organisation that send astronauts into space, is also a big fan of recycling? They have create this fun game on their website to help teach you how to separate rubbish into different bins.


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