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!
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
- Engineering Design Process
- Engineering Vocab
- Engineering Books For Kids
- STEM Books For Kids
- STEM Reflection Questions
- What is an Engineer?
- Engineering Activities For Kids
- Must Have STEM Supplies List
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
- markers and pencils
- rulers and measuring tape
- recycled goods bin
- non-recycled goods bin
- pipe cleaners
- craft sticks (popsicle sticks)
- play dough
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.
Want to turn one of these experiments into an awesome science fair project? Check out these helpful resources.
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!
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.
Turn all your leftover cardboard tubes into something fun and useful with this marble run STEM activity.
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.
Design and create a DIY kaleidoscope for kids using recyclable materials for a simple recycling activity.
A few recyclable materials and some imagination is all it takes to build a fun droid or robot with this cool recycling project.
Make your own super fun rocket ship box from a large cardboard box.
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!
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!
Easily an upcycled or repurposed project! Turn your jumbo box of broken and worn down bits of crayon into these new homemade crayons.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!