Recycle End of Year School Supplies for Back to School - Edventures with Kids

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Recycle End of Year School Supplies for Back to School

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Have your kids started their countdown for the last day of school yet?

The clock is quickly ticking away at our house!

And I adore that last day of school -- all the excitement about summer, the hugs for the teachers, our special end of school traditions and the kids knowing they are "one year older" in school years ;)

But I do dread all the end of the school year stuff that comes home with them -- stuffed in an "I-just-couldn't-get-it-zipped" backpack and overflowing brown paper bag.

They run into the house carrying that huge lot -- their whole desk or locker just dumped in it (UGH!) -- and it just spills out on the floor, quickly forgotten.  

So before they ditch their school supplies and reach for their bathing suits, have them follow these quick & easy steps that will save you time & money come Fall!! 

 recycle end of the year school supplies


Recycling School Supplies on the Last Day of School

First, be sure the kids are the ones helping with this task!

After all, it is all their stuff ;) and I've found that it helps my kids to realize they should have recycled quite a few of those papers during the year instead of stuffing them all in their desk.

PLUS, it's wonderful to hear them tell you about all the artwork, drawings and other school projects that might just be coming home now.

Here's what we do on the last day of school:


Step 1: Prep to Make it Easy

First, I send them to school with a canvas or reusable bag

If they have too much, you may also need to send a brown paper bag too.


Once they get home on that last day with ALL THEIR STUFF, I give them a snack. 

Seriously - food goes a long way to making kids more cooperative (try a Popsicle as a last day of school celebration :)


Step 2: Sort Supplies and Store Them

Ok, now that everyone's fed, dump everything out of the bag! 

Believe me, it will go much faster if you do this. 

You may want to go outside on the patio/deck/yard if you think it's going to be really messy.


All of our Dumped School Supplies -- I see a sweatshirt in there that's been lost for weeks :)


Have the KIDS pull out all the crayons/markers/etc. and organizing them into piles, while Mom or Dad puts all the stray papers into a neat, little pile (don't look at them right now, just pile them).

If you find objects that aren't school supplies (for example, food items or that sweatshirt they lost :), do the obvious and either wash, discard or put away.


Now that you can see things a little better, look at the following items to see if they can be used next year. 

If they CAN be used (meaning it's in good condition and your child hasn't outgrown it), put them back in a canvas bag or their backpack if you won't need it during the summer:

  • Rulers
  • Scissors
  • Pencils, pens, erasers
  • Sets of colored pencils, markers and crayons
  • White board markers (along with the old cloth)
  • Folders (no visible rips inside or out)
  • 3-ring binders (make sure open/close latches work)
  • Pencil cases
  • Art shirts
  • Don't forget the Backpack - either use it for next year or for summer activities (like on vacation or to/from the pool)



Much more organized so we can see what we can save for back to school


If the kids need some incentive to reuse items, try explaining that the money you save on back-to-school items can go toward something fun this summer. 

I also appeal to their helping instincts and let them know that recycling means less stuff to throw out so it's earth-friendly. 

Now you should have a bag that contains all your reusable school supplies for Fall.  Yea!  Store it in your child's closet (or somewhere you'll remember :) and take it out when you get the back-to-school supply list.  You should be able to check off a number of items - so less shopping later!


This is what we're saving for next year - approximate value is $27

(The pink box is full of gently used pencils, highlighters, expo markers and colored pencils).


Step 3:  Review & Get Rid of the Rest

Yes, I remember that there's still a pile of papers (and un-usable items) on your floor - not to worry!

For all the items that you couldn't salvage, make a few decisions:

If the item is still in good condition but your child has outgrown it (like that Kung Fu Panda folder), donate it to a teacher or school supply drive over the summer.

If the item is incomplete, such as stray crayons or markers, you can keep them for home use or find out if the art teacher at school would like/use these extra items.

If it's really broken or just no longer usable, recycle what you can (such as paper folders or plastic pencil boxes) and get rid of the rest.


The last thing to deal with is all the paper - never an easy task.

You can either choose to sort through these now, wait a few days or do a handful of papers each day over the next week.

Check to see if your child will need any of their work (for example, math courses will sometimes tell you to save your previous years' items), then put those papers in your 'back-to-school' bag.


Most of the papers - old worksheets, practice booklets - can be recycled. 

If your child is particularly proud of anything, maybe a great grade on that science test or a picture they made in art class, keep and display those items.  (See our Pinterest board if you'd like some great ideas on Displaying Kid's Art).

That should be it! 

You'll be so happy come back-to-school time that you took care of this now :)

Reward yourself with some relaxing Hammock Time! 


Time to kick-off summer!



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  • Jacquie Fisher
    Jacquie Fisher July 06

    This is a nice post and clearly describes what can be done to save money. As a teacher, I have seen so many children toss their school supplies the last week rather than take them home. If you can't talk your own children into using this great and green idea, at least perhaps you can find someone to share the supplies with the first day. Teachers buy many materials for students who arrive at school with little, and it would be so helpful if parents could donate recycled supplies. Or the art teacher might appreciate donations! Thanks, Carolyn

  • Jacquie Fisher
    Jacquie Fisher July 07

    Great idea! School supplies are so expensive! I love Carolyn's idea also to donate the supplies. I know I was a special area teacher (reading) and reading teachers don't get the school supplies from the kids so either everything has to come out of the tiny classroom budget or out of the teacher's pocket. I had to buy things like tissues because there were no students to bring those in.

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