How to Recycle at School

Children are passionate about caring for the earth. Add recycling to the curriculum and you will spark positive behaviour change that will last throughout their lives and positively impact their families and communities.

Your school can make a real difference and positively impact the environment.

1. Why Recycle?

Create a legacy
Learners who participate in recycling are more likely to continue to recycle as adults. Imagine if every child at your school took the lessons of recycling into the world with them – it would transform our communities, create jobs, and make a better world.

Improve the environment
Moving from a throw-away society to one that reuses and recycles items means we help to cut down on the energy and greenhouse gases required to produce new packaging material, which contribute to climate change. Recycling also reduces the amount of waste that is sent to landfill and stops litter from landing up in the environment. Recycling helps to control water and land pollution.

Enhance your schools Image
Instilling a sense of environmental awareness in pupils can inspire them to get involved in other environmentally friendly practices. A recycling programme positions your school as a caring, responsible, contributing member of the community. This is attractive to students and parents of prospective students alike.

Save money, make money
It generally costs more to send waste to landfill than it does to send waste for recycling. Income can also be generated for the school if you choose to – send your recyclables to a buy-back centre that will reimburse the school per kg collected.

2. What are the types of waste? What can I recycle?

Biodegradable waste
This includes food, like potato peelings and leftovers that rot and decompose over time.

Non-biodegradable waste
This waste doesn’t decompose and is a major cause of pollution. But much of it can be recycled – converted into something else and used again. Instead of throwing plastic, paper, glass and metals away, place them into recycling bins for reclaimers to collect and recycle – you’ll be helping to control air, water and land pollution.

Is it recyclable?
If you’re unsure whether an item is recyclable or not, look at the packaging. Most products will state whether they are recyclable or not or you’ll see a recycling symbol on the packaging.

3. How do I start a recycling programme at my school?

Passion for recycling spreads quickly but success requires a dedicated individual (teacher, learner, administrator or parent) – or a team. Follow these steps to plan, develop and implement the programme.

Set up a waste committee
This committee will drive the project, give input and ensure best practice is followed.
Include a representative from the educators, the governing body, the administration, student body and cleaning staff.

Engage with the Eco Club
If you don’t have one, identify a champion (teacher, student, administrator or parent) to head up your Eco Club and invite suitable members – learners that show interest in participating. The club will keep the programme on track, and can champion other initiatives like beach and river clean-ups.

Audit your waste
The Eco Club’s first task will be analyzing the refuse the school currently produces. Sort and record what is being thrown away, then identify materials that can be recycled. (Download our audit template and recyclable checklist here.)

Organise the Logistics
Find a recycling collection service and get advice on implementation at your school. Recycling collection companies will be able to tell you what they will collect from you and what kind of recycling infrastructure (bins, etc.) you should set up. Look at and https://mywaste and choose a service that supplies large receptacles for the recyclables.

Agree where these recycling bins will be situated – the site should be large, easily accessible to the collector, staff, learners and possibly parents but away from high traffic areas due to possible odour and vectors. Ideally, it should be enclosed, under cover and secure to prevent vandalism after hours.

4. How can we keep learners engaged?

Include recycling education and anti-litter campaigns in the curriculum.

Hold a recycling challenge to clean the school and pick up litter. Get classes to sort the waste into the correct recycling streams.

Have a weekly competition where the school caretaker awards the “cleanest” class with the “Radical Recyclers Rubbish Bin”. At the end of the year the class that has held the longest winning streak gets a prize.

Hold an art competition to create signs and posters about how to recycle, and why it’s important.

Make your Eco Club responsible for driving awareness and motivating their fellow classmates. They can organize events to support waste diversion and sustainability, speaking at assemblies and ensure school events (like dances or sports games) are eco-friendly.

5. Who can collect our recyclables?

Check your local municipality’s website or use this link to find a recycling collection service close to you:

Or you can ask neighbouring schools who recycle to tell you who collects their recycling. 

Please tell us which company you decide to use so that we can share this information and other Million+ Recycling Heroes can also use their services. Let’s grow recycling together!

6. About the Million+ Plastic Recycling Revolution

The Million+ is a Polyco initiative that aims to get at least one million people in South Africa to commit to recycle their plastic packaging to put an end to plastic pollution in the environment. We believe that recycling is something that every person can do to make a positive impact on the earth.

How can we achieve this? The Million+ draws on the power of networks. If every person that recycles encourages just one more person to start recycling, the commitment to recycling in South Africa will spread from a small minority of people to mass action, and a cleaner environment for all. We want to see a South Africa where recycling is standard and where we no longer find plastic litter in the environment. This is going to take everyone in South Africa being responsible for the plastic packaging that they buy and to recycle it after use.  

You can show your commitment to the cause by signing up below or find out more on the Million Plus website – – and then encouraging your peers, colleagues, friends and family to join too. 

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With so many problems facing the world right now – from climate change to poverty – recycling is one of the differences each one of us can make every day that has far-reaching benefits. The Plastic Recycling Revolution is on a mission to keep plastic out of our environment and to grow plastic recycling in South Africa. We aim to do this by getting one million people to commit to recycling and to spread the word about the importance of recycling by recruiting others to the revolution. Join us, share your recycling stories, information and needs and help build a healthier environment for all.


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