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Reuse, Reduce, Recycle: Recycling Facts for Kids

What is recycling? For kids who are just starting to learn about caring for the planet, it’s helpful to think outside the (recycling) box when answering questions like “why do we recycle?” and explaining how it works. Luckily, almost every activity can be made more fun, and that includes learning about how to recycle. Facts for kids are more memorable when they’re visual, surprising or part of a game; have a go with the ideas below and have fun!


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: For Kids

Why is recycling important? Waste is a huge threat to our environment, which is why we make the effort to recycle. For kids, it’ll be easier to understand that recycling is important (and not just a chore) if they know the global context. Teaching your kids about global warming and the role that household waste plays will help them to understand how their efforts can make a difference.

Get kids to remember the key principles of reducing household waste as: reuse, reduce, recycle.

  1. Reuse waste. Your kids might not enjoy their old clothes and toys anymore but remind them that someone else might – offer hand-me-downs to a friend or younger relative or donate to a charity. For items not suitable for gifting, show them how reusing items can be fun and creative. Both paper and cardboard boxes, such as Persil washing powder boxes, can often be reused through arts and crafts projects. Check out our daily activities for inspiration.
  2. Reduce waste. Tell your kids that it is important to think carefully whenever you decide to get rid of an item. Prompt them to ask these important questions: do you really not need it anymore? Is there anything you could do with it rather than just throw it in the bin? When shopping, get them to think about the amount of packaging and waste materials there might be in the item they want and encourage them to buy pre-loved items where possible.
  3. Recycle waste. Why do we recycle? To reduce the amount of rubbish that ends up in landfill, and to limit resources being used up unnecessarily to create new things. Make sure your kids know where to leave items that can be recycled and place the recycling box somewhere easily accessible for the smaller people in your household.

Recycling Facts For Kids: What Can Be Recycled?

Different local recycling schemes have different rules on what you can or can’t recycle, so it’s a good idea to double-check with your local council before telling your kids what can be recycled.


What Can You Recycle?

Examples of things you can recycle using your household collections include:

  • Paper and cardboard
  • Aluminium food tins (rinsed out and dried)
  • Glass
  • Plastic drinks bottles
  • Clear plastic food packaging, such as fruit punnets
  • Light or white-coloured plastic bottles, like milk bottles or yoghurt pots!
  • Clean aluminium foil
  • Aerosol cans
  • Egg boxes

For anything that contained food or drink, remember to give it a quick rinse before popping it in the recycling bin. If the packaging has food or grease left on it then it could contaminate that item and the rest of the stuff in your recycling bin and this might mean it can’t be recycled.

At the supermarket, get your kids to check the packaging on your household essentials for the recycling symbol. Our Persil packaging, for example, is 100% recyclable.  


What Can’t You Recycle?

These are more difficult to recycle, and shouldn’t go in your recycling bin:

  • Black bin bags
  • Polystyrene
  • Plastic film wrap
  • Batteries
  • Kitchen roll or tissue
  • Waxed or foil-backed paper
  • Animal bedding
  • Sanitary products

Luckily, there are still ways to recycle materials that the recycling service doesn’t pick up. For example, most refuse centres will accept electrical appliances and wooden objects for recycling, even though your regular kerbside pick-up service probably won’t take them. It’s worth getting in touch with your local council to find out what facilities they have for recycling, and the Recycle More website can also help you find one near you. Many supermarkets of collection bins for some tricky items like batteries too.


Fun Recycling Activities For Kids

It’s more important than ever to adopt the ethos ‘reduce, reuse, recycle.’ For kids, learning about recycling is crucial, but there’s no reason it can’t be fun. Recycling games for kids will not only get them excited about doing their bit for the environment but it will also help to make important recycling facts for kids more memorable.

Here are a few you can try, at home or in the classroom.


Recycling Games for Kids


1. Recycling or household waste: what can be recycled?

Set out some newspaper, spread out some (clean!) rubbish on it, and ask your child to tell you whether each item is recyclable or not. If they’re right, they get a point. If they get enough points, they get a prize. You can make this a competitive game if you have more than one child.

For a slightly tidier (if perhaps less memorable) variant of this game, you could use pictures rather than actual rubbish or just write out a list of items if your little one can read. This could be a good way for them to practice their reading and writing too!


2. Before and after: a simple matching game

When you recycle a plastic bottle, what does it become in its next life? Trying to match recyclable objects with what they could become afterwards makes a simple but very satisfying game that’ll be interesting for you as well as your kids.

  1. List out some recyclable items on a piece of paper, then list out some things they can be recycled into on individual paper scraps.
  2. For example, aluminium cans can be used to make bicycles and plastic bottles can be used to make polyester T-shirts. Follow the full life cycle of a plastic bottle here.
  3. Your kid’s task is to decide which things can be made from which recyclables.

And if you’re being bombarded with questions while playing, check out some more plastic recycling facts for kids here!


3. Creative recycling crafts: how to recycle old papers into a notebook

Another fun way to introduce the concept of recycling for kids is to do some recycling at home, turning your old rubbish into something brand new.

For example, try helping your child make their own notebook. Do you have a drawer full of post that you no longer need? A lot of us do, and this is a way to clear some space as well as teaching kids about recycling.

You will need:

  • Used papers, blank on one side
  • A cereal box
  • Scissors
  • A hole punch
  • Ribbon or string

The method:

1.     Sort through your unneeded papers with your child and find as many sheets as you can that are blank on one side.

2.     They’ll probably be A4, which is a bit large for a notebook, so supervise your kid as they cut the sheets down to a sensible size.

3.     Cut two pieces of the same size out of a cardboard cereal box, to serve as the front and back covers.

4.     Arrange the sheets so the blank sides are all facing up.

5.     Place the cardboard covers on the top and bottom of the pile, with the blank side facing outwards (so it’s easier to decorate).

6.     Get them to punch holes in the left-hand side of the stack, at the top and bottom (and optionally in the middle), then thread a piece of ribbon or string through each set of holes and tie the ends together. Supervise carefully to make sure no little fingers get in the way.

7.     Ta-dah: your old waste paper has a new lease of life and your child has a ‘new’ notebook or sketchpad to play with!

If that recycling craft went down well with your kids, why not check out our ideas for plastic bottle crafts?


Adapting recycling facts for kids into fun games can help to simplify a topic that even adults find confusing a lot of the time! Now your children have a better understanding of why recycling is important, why not put their knowledge to the test… and enlist their help with the weekly recycling sorting?

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