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PrimaryArt & Design

From waste to wonder – The school using junk modelling to encourage recycling

The Recycle Now Action Pack have announced the winners of their Recycling Challenge competition, which saw a staggering 700 entries from primary schools across England and Northern Ireland.

Here, primary teacher Danielle Cline from Queensbridge Primary School shares how her pupils’ creative entry saw them crowned eco-warrior competition winners…

Instilling good habits in our pupils when they’re young means they’re much more likely to stick with it later in life, so we’re huge advocates for building sustainable skills early. At Queensbridge Primary School recycling is the first step in our environmental journey, so when we heard about the Recycle Now Action Pack Recycling Challenge competition, we knew that a creative challenge would be sure to get our pupils excited about a topic we know to be so important.

We’ve just set up an internal Eco Committee to increase environmental action in our school, so The Action Pack competition came at a perfect time in our journey. We regularly use the pack in classrooms and keep up with programme developments, so when we initially spotted the Recycling Challenge, we kickstarted our efforts by getting each class to first nominate a pool of pupils to take part.

The ‘Greta Thunberg effect’

After we explained to the children that a competition was coming up to encourage others to recycle, they were really excited about the opportunity, especially as young people of the world are now being taken more seriously thanks to the ‘Greta Thunberg effect’. Following a team brainstorm, it was the pupils themselves who came up with the idea of clearly communicating why recycling is important.

First, they looked at the Recycle Now Action Pack website which inspired them to put pen to paper and start storyboarding. Next, using questions such as ‘what is recycling?’, ‘where do you recycle?’ and ‘how do you know what you can recycle?’, the video took on a fun explainer format.

We brought the idea to life using eco-friendly junk modelling, and the finished film shares clear details on recycling. It also features the Recycle Now Recycling Locator showing what to put in your recycling at home and where to recycle it. Once they’d finished, the children were thrilled to send the video off and eagerly awaited the results to be announced.

The pupils that took part in the video were ecstatic when they found out they’d won! The final film has since been seen by the rest of the school as well as going out to parents via our newsletter, parent app and school Instagram. It’s played a big part in sparking conversations around what can and can’t be recycled. For example, looking at food packaging in lunchboxes or paper waste from classrooms.

Educating the adults

As a result of these conversations, it’s great to see that the kids are now the ones taking the initiative and educating us adults about what does and doesn’t go into our school recycling bins.

As the first-place winners we’re delighted to have won and be the recipients of the £500 prize money. A few years ago, we started an edible garden in the school which before the pandemic was flourishing. Given the ongoing challenges since, the beds have been a little neglected.

We’re planning to use the money to inject some life back into the garden by replanting, adding a compost bin and creating signage. As the hub of the school, not only is the edible garden wonderful to look at, but it also allows us to increase awareness of sustainable practice and food waste.

Winning the contest was a huge motivation for our pupils. Seeing that the small things they do can make a big difference has inspired them to want to do more. They even keep asking when they can make another video!

A great middle ground

When pupils hear their peers talking about topics such as recycling it suddenly becomes much more relatable. The process of entering the competition also helped to assure them that adults are listening to children and that by working together as a team they can make a real impact on others with their creations.

Overall, The Action Pack Recycling Challenge was the perfect opportunity for us to amplify our school’s collective sustainability efforts. We loved that the competition was straightforward to enter from start to finish and the Recycle Now Action Pack resources were extremely user-friendly, with the kids able to navigate the website themselves. They’re a great middle ground between a typical school resource and a tool that’s much more useful on a practical level, enabling our teachers to make recycling accessible to children.

Me and my fellow teachers would highly recommend The Action Pack to schools across England and Northern Ireland to spearhead their own recycling movement. At the start of our own journey, we look forward to continuing to tap into The Action Pack resources to further increase pupils’ knowledge of sustainability.

Through our newly launched Eco Committee and the soon to be launched Parent Counsel, with the support of The Action Pack, we see lots of opportunity to continue to bridge the gap between a sustainable school and home life.

With pre-made classroom presentations, the Recycle Now Action Pack allows teachers to seamlessly bring recycling into the classroom at any stage. Making recycling an exciting and engaging topic for pupils, the pack equips teachers with the information and support they need to teach the topic.

From an introduction to recycling lesson plan, to homework sheets, interactive poster kits and home recycling surveys, the varied resources, developed in partnership with teachers, are flexible and can be used together or individually.

To submit your own inspiring ways of teaching recycling to The Action Pack page, you can share your creations with us by tweeting at @RecycleNow using the #RecycleNowActionPack hashtag or emailing


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