While many homes and classrooms collect used paper products for commercial recycling, children can also practice hands-on paper recycling. They can learn to make book covers, scratch pads and art-quality paper from waste.
Recycling clothing can be a transformational project. Children might help plan and make quilts from worn and outgrown clothing. At school, they can turn old clothes into tote bags, pillows or costumes.
Jars of all sizes are great for organizing spaces. Small children can bring baby food jars to school for use as paint jars. Parents and children can put a tool bench in order with recycled jars for nails, screws or other small items.
Children can reuse clean plastic milk jugs to make planters for garden seeds. They can make vases or pencil holders from smaller water bottles.
Adults and children can recycle cardboard boxes of all sizes creatively. From simple makeovers, such as stretching rubber bands around a shoebox to make a guitar, to more complex projects, such as creating a foil-lined cardboard solar oven, the possibilities are myriad. Cut cardboard into small pieces to add it to a garden compost, or send it to a recycling facility to be remade into various paper products (see References 1).
Recycling empty printer cartridges from home or school is easy, because many new ones come with return envelopes. Some companies that refill cartridges offer discounts on trade-ins. (See References 5)
Older children can learn to set up and maintain composting bins. Recycling such waste as grass clippings, leaves, vegetable trimmings and eggshells can create rich compost for use in the garden. (See References 6)
Children can save gray water from washing or from art projects and reuse it for watering indoor plants or outdoor gardens. For best results, the gray water should not contain grease or food particles, and any soap content should contain a minimum of sodium to prevent plant damage (see References 2).
Students who learn to take good care of books are actively recycling them, both at home and at school. Donating books that you've outgrown to charity or planning a school used-book sale keeps the tomes in the recycling loop, as does forming a book exchange group.
Old tires are useful both at home and school. A tire swing, a flowerbed built inside a tire or a playground with a shredded tire surface are all options for recycling (see References 3). Additionally, parents, teachers and children can take collected tires to a tire recycling facility; your community's solid waste department should be able to provide a list of appropriate facilities (see References 4).