You will be thrilled to know that there are tons of STEM activities you CAN do with recycled materials! Whether you call it eco-friendly, frugal, inexpensive, or cheap, it is possible that all kids can have an awesome STEM experience with very little out of pocket costs. Gather your resources, I mean your recycling bins, and let’s get started!

Recycled STEM activities and challenges for kids! Fun ways to use recycled items to come up with STEM activities you can do at home. Perfect for Earth Day STEM challenges. Have your kids design and engineer their own ideas from the recycling bin or from old items you have laying around the house. Little inventors will love STEM activities with cardboard boxes, plastic bottles, and odd parts. Set up an inventors box, put together a STEM kit or tinker tray filled with reusable STEM items for the young engineer.

Recycling Science Projects For STEM

STEM projects… STEM challenges… engineering activities… all sound pretty complicated, right? Like they aren’t accessible for most kiddos to try or use in classrooms where time and money are tight.

Just imagine if all you really need for STEM is a box of recycleables (and maybe a couple of simple craft supplies for a few)! Enjoy no prep STEM activities or very low prep!

Interested in STEM plus ART? Check out our STEAM Activities!

Before you dive head first into these easy science projects made out of recycled materials, explore these reader-favorite resources to help make prepping and planning your project easy.

Learn about the engineering design process, browse engineering books, practice engineering vocabulary, and dig deep with questions for reflection.

Helpful STEM Resources

How To Set Your Kids Up For Recycling Projects

Use what you have and let your kids get creative with simple materials! These ideas also work great for Earth Day theme!

My pro tip is to grab a large, clean, and clear plastic tote or bin. Whenever you come across a cool item you would normally toss into recycling, toss it in the bin instead. This goes for packaging materials and items you may otherwise throw away.

What kinds of recyclables are perfect for these recycling activities below? Almost anything! Plastic bottles, tin cans, cardboard tubes and boxes, newspapers, old technology like computers and old CDs, and any odds or ends that look cool.

There are also many items like styrofoam and packaging materials that can be saved from the trash bin and upcycled into cool recycling projects.

Standard STEM materials to save include:

  • paper towel tubes
  • toilet roll tubes
  • plastic bottles
  • tin cans (clean, smooth edges)
  • old CDs
  • cereal boxes, oatmeal containers
  • bubble wrap
  • packing peanuts

I also like to keep a bin of supplies on-hand such as tape, glue, paper clips, string, scissors, markers, paper, rubber bands, and anything else you think your kids can use to build or engineer their recycling projects.

Make sure to have the following:

  • colored craft tape
  • glue and tape
  • scissors
  • markers and pencils
  • paper
  • rulers and measuring tape
  • recycled goods bin
  • non-recycled goods bin
  • pipe cleaners
  • craft sticks (popsicle sticks)
  • play dough
  • toothpicks
  • pompoms

Turn It Into A Science Fair Project

Science projects are an excellent tool for older kiddos to show what they know about science! Plus, they can be used in all sorts of environments including classrooms, homeschool, and groups.

Kids can take everything they have learned about using the scientific method, stating a hypothesis, choosing variables, and analyzing and presenting data.

Want to turn one of these experiments into an awesome science fair project? Check out these helpful resources.

Click here to get your free printable STEM activities pack!

List Of Recycling Projects For Kids

Check out these recycling activities below by clicking on the links.  I would also like to add that you can use your trash and recycling items to build boats to float, cars to go, and planes to fly. You can also look around and see what you already have to build structures for a quick STEM idea!

Paper Bag STEM Challenges

Check out these 7 STEM activities you can do with a few simple household items.  Fill a paper bag or two with recyclables for these fun STEM challenges.

Paper Bag STEM challenges week of ideas for kids STEM projects.

Build A Cardboard Marble Run

Turn all your leftover cardboard tubes into something fun and useful with this marble run STEM activity.

Cardboard Tube Marble Run Building STEM Activity for Kids

Build A Hand Crank Winch

Building simple machines is a great way for kids to learn how stuff works! Our winch craft is truly an easy STEM activity with big impact.

 Winch Simple machines Recycled STEM Activity

Make A DIY Kaleidoscope

Design and create a DIY kaleidoscope for kids using recyclable materials for a simple recycling activity.

Make a simple kaleidoscope for kids summer STEM activity

Build A Droid

A few recyclable materials and some imagination is all it takes to build a fun droid or robot with this cool recycling project.

Building Droids and Robots STEAM Activity Free Coloring Sheets

Cardboard Rocket Ship

Make your own super fun rocket ship box from a large cardboard box.

Cardboard Box Rocket Ship How To Make a Cardboard Box Rocket Ship

Take A Part A Computer

Do you have kids who love to take things apart, broken or not broken?  Why not let them take apart a computer, with a bit of assistance.  My son thought this was the coolest recycling activity ever!

Kids Take Apart Computers Upcycled STEM Activity

Plastic Egg Carton Craft

Can you believe this recycled craft uses egg cartons! So easy to make, fun to wear, uses recycled materials, and includes a bit of chemistry too!

Melting Crayons

Easily an upcycled or repurposed project! Turn your jumbo box of broken and worn down bits of crayon into these new homemade crayons.

make crayon stars with kids

Cardboard Bird Feeder

Make your own super simple homemade bird feeder from a toilet paper roll and add this fun bird-watching activity to your kid’s day!

Paper Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel tower has to be one of the most well known structures in the world. Make your own paper Eiffel tower with only tape, newspaper and a pencil.

Paper Eiffel Tower

Recycling Paper

Making your own recycled paper is not only good for the environment but it is a lot of fun too! Find out how to make a paper earth craft from used bits of paper.

Build A DIY Solar Oven

STEM isn’t complete until you have made your own sun oven or solar cooker for melting s’mores. No campfire needed with this engineering classic! Find out how to make a pizza box solar oven and what materials you need. It’s super simple!

DIY Solar Oven

Plastic Bottle Greenhouse

Enjoy growing plants with a mini greenhouse made from plastic bottles! Watch the life cycle of a plant unfold with simple materials from your recycling bin!

I hope these recycling activities and projects are just what you need to fuel your kids’ passions for all things STEM or STEAM. I bet you will stumble onto more great ideas along the way!

I even bet you will create some awesome challenges of your own. All of these recycled STEM activities are a great springboard for your own creativity!

100 STEM Projects For Kids

Want even more great ways to learn with STEM at home or in the classroom? Click here.