15 Ways to Recycle or Upcycle School Supplies 15 Ways to Recycle or Upcycle School Supplies

The school year is halfway over, and your home is filling up with used school and office supplies. Many of us don’t even realize that these supplies can be recycled or reused. Parents, teachers, administrations, and students need to unite to create a school environment that is sustainable and forward thinking. Here are 15 ways how to do it.

1. Purchase Sustainability

As consumers grow more aware of the dangerous chemicals in plastics, we are starting to see eco-friendly products making their way onto shelves. Instead of using conventional petroleum based plastic, try products made from plants. For instance, DBA pens are made from potatoes and are 98% compostable.

2. Donate to Charity or A friend in Need

When it is time to get rid of an item, think: “Can someone else use this?” If the answer is yes, there are many places to drop these items off locally. Shelters, schools, non-profit organizations, and even neighbors often look for donations. You can also post the usable supplies on Freecycle or Craigslist.

3. Donate to “Title 1” Schools

“Title 1” schools always need supply donations. They have more low-income students in enrollment, and often need to supply these students with materials. This becomes a burden on teachers, who often end up spending portions of their salary on project supplies. Even if the items are not “like new,” they will enrich the students’ learning environment.

Some “Title 1” schools are so underfunded that their teachers have limited access to computers, printers, art supplies for projects, or materials for science experiments. This is a great way to help out your community and clean out junk drawers. Search for a local school in need by visiting The National Center for Education Statistics or Great Schools.

4. Recycle in School

Ask your school’s administration which recycling programs they are involved in. Some schools even act as recyclable waste collection facilities. By dropping off your own recyclables at school, you may enhance the incentives they get out of being involved with these programs:

  • Office Depot’s My School Recycles offers schools incentives for recycling ink and toner cartridges and small electronics. It even picks up the recyclables.
  • Crayola’s ColorCycle is another free program for schools to participate in. Instead of throwing out dried-up markers, send them to Crayola to be turned into fuel! They say it takes 308 markers to make one gallon of fuel!

5. Get Your School Involved

If your school is not involved with any of these programs, take action! Contact the administration, superintendent, principal, or show up at a school meeting. Visit Green Schools Initiative for more resources to make a difference for your school.

6. Excite Your Community

Get other parents, teachers, and students excited about making their school safer, cleaner, and more sustainable. Make posters, throw parties, and host community cleanup events. You should not have to do all of the work yourself! Getting the community involved is a great way to share responsibility, and educate others about the dangers of their trash.

7. Plan Ahead for School Cleanup

If you know your child will be cleaning out their desk and locker, send them to school with extra storage. Encourage them to bring home everything the school does not recycle. You can make sure everything gets disposed of properly.

8. Know Your Local Recycling Programs

Earth911 is a great tool for finding recycling plants in your area. The site also explains what can be recycled at each venue, and how to sort your donation correctly. A few other places to check for general recycling centers and services is RecyclingCenters.org.

9. Send Hard to Recycle Trash to TerraCycle

It is so easy to send used supplies to TerraCycle. All you need to do is request a shipping label, and send the box out. They recycle trash that would otherwise be thrown into a landfill, even drink pouches and chip bags! Then they either recycle the materials, or turn them into awesome new products. To see a full list of the items they accept, and the requirements for shipping each type, visit their Collection Program Cheat Sheet.

10. Drop Batteries Off with Call2Recycle

Call2Recycle will take just about any type of battery and cell phones. They extract chemicals to be reused in other products. The service is also free, and there are many drop-off locations.

11. Recycle Backpacks and Outgrown Clothes

Send outgrown clothes and backpacks to World Wear Project. This organization upcycles and recycles used textiles for the less fortunate people of the world. If your items are too worn to give to someone else to use, this is a great place to send them.

12. Send Dead Pens to “The Pen Guy”

The Pen Guy is a graphic designer and artist with an obsession for pens. He will take any type of pen or writing implement. He uses these pens to create art pieces. Take a look at his car, the “Mercedes Pens.”

13. Crayons Can be Recycled Too!

If the thought of remolding crayons makes you cringe, Crazy Crayons will do it for you. They prefer to receive crayons with legible labels, though they will gladly accept every crayon donated. Crazy Crayons molds only non-toxic crayons in fun shapes, and sells them to support their efforts.

14. Track Your Waste

Many people purchase more than they use. Knowing what you or your student have “in stock” will save you from wasting money and dealing with unnecessary waste — living a sustainable lifestyle can be a bit taxing. So, plan out how and when you will need to recycle specific items. If you have a solid plan and organization, you will not find your home consumed by recyclables!

15. Get Crafty

Use rubber bands, pencil erasers, and paper clips as stamps. Brass fasteners accent any style. Use them to write words for a poster, or push them into a foam shape for a festive golden decoration. A pile of junk has potential value if you put in a little effort.

What’s Next?

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