Awesome Ways to Make Recycling Fun (for you and the kids!)


Recycling bins at the curb

Like any other chore in our lives recycling can get to be a drag. But it doesn’t have to be. Keep recycling easy and fun for the whole family with these 12 awesome ideas.

Whether you’re into raising some cash, creating some crafts, or going bigger with projects like a plastic bottle greenhouse, this list has something for everyone!

Great ways to Stay Motivated with Your Recycling

1. Raise Money.

Extra money is a great motivator for kids and adults alike. You can raise money by recycling in a variety of ways. The most obvious way is to return bottles in states where there is a bottle redemption. At this time 10 states have such bottle bills: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Vermont.

These states also have aluminum can redemptions that will pay you 5 cents for a 12 ounce can unless you’re in Michigan or Oregon where you’ll get 10 cents a can.

But there are a lot of other ways to raise money with recycling as well that you may not have thought of.

Raise money for your cause with Funding Factory. Funding Factory lets you turn in your used toner and ink cartridges to raise cash for your organization. From animal rescue organizations to Boy Scout troops to conservations societies many organizations are raising money this way. The best way to make it work is to get many local businesses on board and have them donate their toner and ink cartridges to you and your cause. You can learn more here at the Funding Factory site.

Earn money from used boxes – like all those Amazon boxes that they keep leaving on your porch. Use Boxcycle to sell your boxes to local people who need them for moving, storage, etc. This is also a good way to find boxes if you need them. You can find out more here on the Boxcycle website.

Earn money with your junk mail. Yes, seriously! There is an agency that will pay you for certain items in your junk mail. It’s the Small Business Knowledge Center and you can find more info about the program here. They will even send you postage-paid envelopes to forward to your junk mail to them each week.

Recycle electronics for cash. Gazelle.com will take used cell phones, laptops, etc. and give you cash for them (not just a credit towards another product like many cell phone companies).

Recycle electronics for gift cards. Walmart has a Gadgets to Giftcards program that allows you send in electronic items you no longer use for gift cards. Some items that they’ll take are old laptops, cell phones, game consoles, tablets, etc. and they’ll give you a prepaid shipping label you can print out. Just FedEx your item in and they’ll give you an e-gift card.

Recycle the tough stuff. Terracycle has programs to recycle a lot of the items that generally aren’t recyclable in standard recycling facilities like toothbrushes, water filters, corks, baby food pouches, etc.

It’s absolutely free to join and you can select the type of products you usually need to recycle. They give you a shipping label (or there may be a local drop location) and you can earn points for every pound of recyclables you turn in. The points turn into donations to the charitable organization of your choice. You can learn more at their website.

2. Take a field trip.

Why not visit your local recycling plant? Oftentimes you can set up a tour at your local plant and see just how much of a difference recycling can make when we’re trying to conserve resources and keep things out of landfills.

Child squeezing a paint bottle.

3. Make it Pretty & Personalized!

Let kids decorate the recycling bins to help them remember what goes where. Keep recycling easy and convenient by making indoor bins that are labeled with each category you are recycling. You might even allow kids to set up their own recycling bins in their rooms for things like paper that don’t allow the possibility of unrinsed food containers ending up around the house.

Woman dropping a plastic yogurt container into a recycling bin.

4. Challenge your Family.

Create a challenge tailored to your family’s recycling needs. For example, you might try the “One Bag Challange.” This challenges your family to only create one bag of trash a week. Rather than throwing things away figure out what can be recycled, given away to charity (or put on the curb with a “free” sign), reused or made into something else.

If your family manages to only make one bag of trash a week (or whatever is reasonable for the size of your family – as long as you make it challenging enough) then the whole family gets a treat – a special movie you all watch together with popcorn or a trip to the Zoo, or a hike at a favorite trail or whatever your family enjoys doing.

5. Internet Scavenger Hunt.

If your kids like to go online and do fun research, have them use the Internet to find information on recycling and how it helps the environment. You can challenge them to find out specific information about your local recycling plant and procedures, what can be recycled, what can’t, how much plastic or glass is recycled in your community, how much money recycling saves and more. Then have them share the information they find.

6. In-Store Scavenger Hunt.

Teach kids about the other end of the recycling process by having them look for products that are made from recycled materials when you are at the store. If we want recycling to work we need to ensure there is a demand for recycled products.

Many companies want to be known for their “green” efforts so have kids look for recycled materials markings on the products you are buying. This could be for anything from printer paper to packaging materials on food products to kitchen sponges. Reading packages is a helpful life skill they’ll use as long as they live. Why not get them started now.

7. Earn Bonus Points for Recycling.

Recycle Bank (it’s not really a bank) will allow you to earn points for different activities that have to do with recycling, including just learning more about it. These points can be traded in for discounts and coupons at local businesses. Find out more and check to see what rewards are available in your area here at the Recycle Bank Website.

Robots made from recycled boxes

8. Make a Craft Bin.

You may have recycle bins for paper, plastic, glass, etc. but have you made a bin that the family members can put likely craft-making recyclables in? This might include toilet paper rolls, cardboard cereal boxes, clean plastic bottles, milk jugs, etc. Then have a craft afternoon or craft night once a month or once a week even, where you create different crafts out of the items in the bin. You can find lots of ideas on Pinterest. A few ideas I found and love are:

Kids Crafts

Toilet Roll Monsters – SO CUTE you’ll want to make a whole monster pack!

Water bottle flowers that use the bottoms of water bottles and used straws to create a pretty bouquet. Here are some more variations.

These cute milk jug bird feeders. So many ways to decorate them!

Adorable Egg Carton Whales

Cute Toothbrush Bracelets – to re-use those toothbrushes that have seen better days.

A Flock of Parakeets – Using toilet rolls and a few other crafting supplies, these are so fun!

Paper Roll Owls – If parakeets and monsters aren’t your thing, check out these super cute owls made from paper towel rolls.

A Milk Carton Boat This is a craft that both boys and girls will love to make and create stories about!

Kleenex Box Monsters – Really cute AND you can use them as messages boxes as well!

Tin Can Wind Chimes – Have kids play with different combinations of cans to make different sounds.

Bottle Lid Stamps – This is a craft that kids can make and use over and over again to create other art projects.

Make Marker Paint – You can use dried-up markers to make paint for new craft projects.

Make Handmade Papers – Handmade paper is beautiful and items made from it can be quite pricey. Why not make your own with the paper you’d be recycling anyway?

For more ideas for getting your kids on board with recycling you can check out this post I wrote.

Bottles attached to a wall and used as vases.

Grown-Up Crafts:

Wine Bottle Christmas Decorations – These glitter-covered and letter adorned bottles are beautiful additions to your Christmas decor.

Beach Themed Bottles – These make beautiful vases and look great empty, too.

Bottles with Transfer Images – I love how these turned out. You can transfer just about any image you want with this method and it’s not limited to wine bottles. This would work on jars, smaller bottles, just about any used glass item. These would make awesome gifts.

Turn Bottles into Glassware – It’s pretty easy to do, you don’t need any special tools, AND you’ll get an awesome new set of drinking glasses! Just be sure to use a mask and safety glasses so you don’t inhale any glass particles or get any in your eyes.

Self-watering Planter – This is a great way to keep bottles out of the landfill and to keep your plants happy at the same time.

Cardboard Box to Tape or Ribbon Dispenser – Keep your craft supplies organized and easy to access with this great craft idea.

Cardboard Box into a Decorative Planter – I love this idea. Yes, you definitely still need to include a pot with a saucer for any overwatering, because this is not waterproof unless you line it with something. But it’s a great look and takes very few supplies.

Decoupaged Trays from Cardboard Boxes – I use trays all the time to keep things organized. These are simple to make using very basic tools, yet the result looks terrific and I think these would also make great gifts.

Paper Lanterns from Cardboard Boxes – These are lovely and you can use whatever color tissue paper you like to create the ambiance you are looking for. The shape of these is fun and fancy, luckily there’s a downloadable PDF so you can get the pattern.

There are a thousand other craft ideas you can find as well. But I hope these whet your appetite a little bit. Depending on what you use in your house and the age and abilities of your “crafters” you might be amazed at what you can make.

And if you like crafting these some of these would be great items to sell on Etsy as well!

9. Trash Treasure Hunt.

Take a trip to a local park or natural space and make it a “treasure hunt.” Have each family member take a collection bag and pair of rubber gloves. Set a time limit and see how much trash they can collect. Keep close to younger kids to be sure they aren’t picking up anything dangerous. The one who finds the most “treasure” gets a treat.

When you’re done, sort out the different types of trash into the correct recycle or waste bins. This is a great activity when you are visiting the beach as well, with picking up pieces of plastic and other small debris.

Think BIGGER!

It’s fun to make small crafts with materials that you can re-use rather than recycle. But some people enjoy a bit bigger project. So here are a few you might consider. Remember you don’t have to do it on your own. Get your community, business or school involved if you want.

10. Make Furniture Out of Cardboard

Need an end table or bedside table and have some cardboard boxes sitting around? You could make this one.

Want to get even more creative? Check out the principles of designing and making cardboard furniture here. It’s amazing what you can do with cardboard using very simple tools. If you’re intimidated by woodworking because you don’t have the tools or want to spend the money, building with cardboard is an awesome way to create useful items for use throughout your house.

11. Plastic Bottle Green House.

This project takes quite a few bottles but most of the building process is fairly straight forward and kids can do a lot of it themselves. Check out this project completed by middle school kids. Plastic can be sharp when cut and there is a lot of cutting needed so wearing gloves would be a strong recommendation. Here’s a great video showing kids building a plastic bottle greenhouse as well.

https://youtu.be/pOcB2WiW84A
Wall made out of glass bottles and morter

12. Glass Bottle She-Shed or Tiny House.

Glass bottles can be used for building as well. I haven’t tackled this myself, but here are 6 ideas from people who have already done this. Plus, a little bit about the process in the following video. (Please pardon the video maker’s language at the end of the video. I wanted to include this one because it does such a good job of showing the process.)

If a whole “bottle house” is not in the cards, consider creating small walls in your garden or as part of an outdoor seating area.

Thanks!

And there you have it! A dozen ways to keep recycling fun! Thank you for reading and thank you for caring about our planet enough to do what you can to reuse and recycle. Every choice you make makes a difference!

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