Calling all K-12 Youth!

Participate in a national recycling video and poster contest sponsored by ISRI, the trade association representing the recycling industry, and JASON Learning!

Recycling for Sustainability:
Making A Difference to Our Climate

Recycling is far more important than most people realize. Recycling creates jobs and livelihoods, and is critical to the economy. It supplies the necessary materials for manufacturing all kinds of products – from cardboard boxes, to electronics, building supplies, tires, clothes, and more! And, of course, there are endless environmental benefits. This year, we are calling all youth to explore the relationship between recycling and climate change to raise public awareness and show how, by doing our part, we can make a big difference together.

Your challenge

Create a public service announcement that raises awareness around recycling and why and how recycling can reduce the impact of climate change in your local community and ensure earth’s resources are available for future generations.
All entries must be submitted by Friday, December 17, 2021

Climate Change is happening. Average temperatures and amount of rainfall that regions typically experience are changing all over the world. As the earth warms, ocean and air current patterns change, and the way temperature and rainfall is distributed changes too. Storms are intensifying and heat waves are lasting longer than usual. Every place on earth is experiencing climate change in different ways. For example, in the southwest US, heat waves are more intense, droughts are occurring for longer periods of time, insect outbreaks are common, and wildfires are increasing. In the northeast US, people are also experiencing more heat waves but with heavy downpours, and coastal flooding. These changes impact where plants and animals can survive, how long crops have to grow, and many other factors that impact our economy, health, and lifestyles. No matter where we live, each one of us is being impacted or will be impacted by climate change.

Greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere are trapping heat, causing earth’s temperatures to gradually rise and contributing to the effects of climate change. There’s still time to limit and reduce the amount of carbon emissions but no one person or country can do it by themselves. It will take a “village” of all of us. We can start by recycling!

Recycling reduces the amount of carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases being released.


When we make new products from recycled materials, it almost always requires less energy than making products from virgin or raw materials. From being harvested as raw material to transporting, processing, refining, and being made into a product that someone can use or buy, there is a tremendous amount of energy involved. And energy requires fuel which means more use of carbon-based materials, and more carbon emissions.


Most raw materials are extracted from critical ecosystems like forests, oceans, and mountains. Extracting raw materials often results in damage to the ecosystem and the loss of ecosystem services. For example, when bauxite is mined, the ore that is used to make aluminum, all the trees and vegetation are removed, resulting in the loss of habitat. Trees and plants take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – they are carbon sinks – and one of the few natural systems on earth we have that absorbs carbon! When manufacturers use recycled materials to create products, they reduce the amount of raw materials that need to be extracted, keeping more of these important ecosystems intact.


Recycling reduces the amount of materials sent to landfills. Materials sent to landfills decompose and produce greenhouse gases, primarily methane. Methane absorbs heat efficiently and contributes greatly to warming the planet. By lowering the amount of materials sent to landfills, we can reduce the amount of methane and other greenhouse gases produced by landfills.

Your solution should:

Highlight how recycling helps to minimize the impact of climate change by reducing carbon emissions and saving energy.  Help people around you understand the connection between recycling and climate change. Show the cause and effect relationship. 
Identify a specific commodity (material) that can be recycled and specifically illustrate how recycling this material helps minimize carbon emissions and saves energy.

  • Glass
  • Fiber (Paper & Cardboard)
  • Ferrous metals (metals containing iron like iron, wrought iron, and steel).
  • Non-ferrous metals (metals that do not contain iron such as aluminum, copper, lead, nickel, tin, and zinc).
  • Plastics
  • Electronics
  • Tires
Set the stage. Why is climate change important to you and your community?  Think about where you live. How will climate change impact you and your neighbors?
Show how recycling helps to reduce the impacts of climate change by choosing a recyclable material and showing how it reduces carbon emissions and saves energy. Think about the following when learning about your material (commodity) and creating your video or poster:

  • Consider the lifecycle of the material you’ve chosen. How much energy is used in each phase of its life cycle and how does each phase contribute to greenhouse gas emissions? Why would using recycled materials take less energy and emit less carbon than using “raw” materials? 
  • Are there any benefits to keeping these materials out of the waste stream and out of landfills? 
  • How might recycling the material you’ve chosen keep ecosystems and ecosystem services intact?
Propose & Support Your Solution. What should people do & why? Explain what people in your community should do in order to recycle the material properly and how this is a sustainable solution. In other words, how does your solution ensure that this resource will continue to be available into the future without degrading our planet?
Display the title “Recycling For Sustainability: Making a Difference to Our Climate” on the title screen of the actual video or display clearly on the poster itself.

Recycling Contest Ask-an-Expert LIVE Events - FREE!

Join experts from ISRI, the trade association representing the recycling industry, and JASON Learning to hear about this year’s recycling contest! Open to all students K-12, this is an opportunity for students, teachers, and families to hear from experts in the recycling industry, receive helpful tips and the challenge, and ask questions. Also great for students who are also undecided about entering and wish to learn more. Come join us! Please note, all students under the age of 18 must register for this event with an adult (family member, teacher, parent, guardian).

October 18th, 7:30-8:30pm EST

November 2nd, 4-5pm EST

All entries must be submitted by Friday, December 17, 2021

Ready to Submit? See Rules & Guidelines for the link to submit.

Check out our Recycling Activities Collection: Lessons and resources for grades k-12!

Designed in partnership with ISRI, the trade association representing the recycling industry, students explore the benefits and challenges of sustainable recycling through a variety of activities ranging from physics and chemistry to engineering and human impacts while becoming informed citizens and careful consumers.