Teach your teen which materials he can recycle and potentially repurpose.

Recycling for Teens

by Susan Revermann

Everyone should play a part in helping to protect this beautiful planet, even your teenager. Recycling, reducing and reusing should become part of your family’s everyday life. In addition to teaching your teen by being a recycling role model, encourage her to “go green” by getting creative and finding new purposes for used household items.


Introduce your teen to the concept of recycled art. Newspapers can be shredded and used to create paper mache projects. Clean glass jars and plastic juice containers can be repurposed as a pen or marker holder for your teen’s desk. Brown paper bags can be embellished with decorative stamps and used as wrapping paper or book covers. Empty, clean potato chip bags can be turned shiny side out and used as wrapping paper, too. Metal mint containers can be decorated with stickers, buttons, jewels or markers and used for storing items like paper clips, jewelry or money.


Clothing can be recycled and reused instead of ending up in the landfill. You can take your teen to a thrift store or consignment shop for teenagers and encourage her to pick out her own unique outfits. Let her explore and find some clothing treasures. Not only is this a means of recycling clothing, it will save you lots of money. If she refuses or gives you a hard time, she can always do a clothing exchange with another teen. In addition, have your teen go through her clothes once or twice a year and donate what she doesn’t wear. This allows someone else to reuse the items and gives them a longer life. Old clothing can also be cut into squares and used as cleaning cloths or sewn together to create pillow covers or quilts.

Household Items

Your teenager can get in on recycling household items. Assign the task of “recycling captain” to your teen and offer an allowance for this chore, if you wish. Put her in charge of ensuring that everyone is cleaning and recycling everything they can. This includes aluminum cans, cardboard, newspapers, glass jars, steel cans and certain plastics. Encourage her to do research or contact your local recycling center to check which plastics and other items are recycled in your specific area. She can also take the recycling out and to the curb on garbage day.

Reducing Waste

Reducing waste helps keep items from ending up in a landfill and lowers household costs. To reduce plastic waste, encourage your teen to use refillable, rather than disposable, water bottles and give her a reusable shopping bag that can be folded into a small square and stored in a purse, pocket, backpack or car glove box. To reduce energy waste and cost, remind your teen to always turn lights off when leaving a room and put the computer on sleep instead of screensaver mode.

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