Reduce - Reuse - Recycle info sheet for children

Reduce means to use less stuff in the first place!   If we all make less rubbish, there will be less of a problem to deal with!  This is the best way to deal with our waste.  Reducing the amount of rubbish we throw away means thinking about what we buy in the first place. ‘Do we really need this and is it the best way to fulfil our need?’ In life, there are lots of things we want but few things we actually need (beyond food, water and shelter). This can save us money as well.

A really easy way to prevent waste is to try and buy things that can be used again and again.  This can save us money and if we buy things from charity shops, or recycling centres, it makes less waste and is better for everybody. Rechargeable batteries are great because they can save money and they reduce the number being thrown away. Batteries contain metals like mercury, cadmium and lead, which are bad for the environment, so it is best that batteries are recycled.

We all need help in reducing our waste and changing how we live our lives. Adults can find this very hard because they have to change things that they may have been doing for years. It is important to politely remind people not to send things to landfill.

Reducing waste at school

There are lots of ways to reduce the amount of rubbish you and your school create.  Here are just a few ….

  • Print on both sides of the paper and use one-sided paper for scrap.
  • Compost your uneaten fruit and use the compost in the school gardens
  • Your school could have a “waste free lunch” competition with a prize for the class which has the least rubbish to throw away from their lunches. This could be a weekly event to help remind everyone to reduce their rubbish.
  • Don’t start a new page every time you start a new piece of work – draw a line underneath it and continue on the same page
  • Share your books, games and toys with your friends and then you won’t need to have one each. It also gives you things to talk about, because you have had the same experiences. Remember to ask a parent or teacher first, as not all toys are suitable for everyone.
  • Start a ‘Reduce Waste Club’ where you and your class mates discuss how your efforts to reduce waste are going and what else you can do. You could even do monthly waste audits where all the waste and recycling is collected and looked at to see what can be reduced.

Reducing is the best way to deal with your waste but the next stage is to Reuse the things you do have.


‘Reuse’ means to use things again and again. We throw away lots of things which could still be useful and could be reused.  There are many ways we can reuse items, both at home and at school.

In Africa, people have been making shoes from old car tyres for years. Car tyres make great shoes because they are flexible and last a long time. It is important to think about things before deciding how they can be reused.

Reusing waste at school

  • Paper that has been used on one side can be put in a scrap paper tray and used on the other side.
  • Take your lunch to school in a reusable lunch box
  • Use a refillable bottle for your drink and refill it each day
  • Ask friends if they want things that you no longer want. They may love to have something that you don’t like anymore.
  • Why not set up a ‘bring and buy’ stall in your school, where people bring in unwanted stuff for you to sell or swap. The money which you make could be given to charity or used to buy all your class mates refillable drinks bottles.

If something is no longer reusable it could still be made into something else completely different, or even brand new again. This process is called Recycling.


Recycling means using something old to make something new.  To do this, stuff has to be changed back into the raw materials they are made from and then made into something brand new. This is good because it helps to save the world’s resources, rather than wasting them by throwing them in the bin. Only when we cannot Reduce, Reuse or Compost our waste, should we recycle. This is because recycling something takes energy.

Many everyday items can be recycled by using one of the following:-

  • Doorstep recycling services
  • Recycling Centres
  • Recycling banks – often found in local supermarkets.

There are loads of reasons why reducing rubbish makes sense. If we don’t buy or use things, we save resources, energy, money, reduce pollution and the amount of rubbish we throw away.

Many similar sized families throw away different amounts of rubbish because they do and buy different things.

What we buy is the important bit and means that a family throwing out lots of rubbish could probably throw away less if they did things differently.

There are loads of examples of ways to reduce rubbish; bottled water is a particularly good one. In the UK, we drink about 2 billion litres of bottled water every year, or about 35 litres each. However, people also have a tap in their house or office and so if they drank tap water instead; all those empty plastic bottles wouldn’t exist. This would reduce a huge amount of rubbish.

We can also reduce rubbish by squashing it, but this would only reduce the size of it and so would not have all the advantages of avoiding stuff in the first place.

There are lots of opportunities to reduce rubbish; and we need to, because experts have worked out that for every three bags of shopping we buy, we throw one bag away without being eaten because food has gone past its ‘use by’ or ‘sell by’ date. ‘Buy one get one free’ offers can also tempt us to buy more than we can actually use so we end up throwing more away.

Top tip – If you want to be an expert waste reducer, avoid anything called disposable!


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