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: The Key to Sustainability

Humans depend on a healthy and thriving planet. Earth is our home. Everything we breathe, eat, make, and use traces back to Earth’s resources. A sustainable planet cannot exist without recycling. Recycling ensures that Earth’s valuable resources will continue to be available into the future without damaging the environment. Every time something is recycled, it ensures that we are taking less from a mountainside, forest, or ocean floor.


A cycle is a sequence of events repeating themselves. On a circle, you can begin at any point on the circumference, and eventually work your way back to the same spot, and then repeat! Recycling is like that. Products that have been used once can be transformed into something new and usable again. Printer paper can be recycled and made into cardboard boxes. Cardboard boxes can also be recycled to become paper towels or wrapping paper . . . and the cycle continues. Plastic water bottles can be recycled and turned into shampoo bottles. Shampoo bottles can be recycled and made into traffic cones . . . and the cycle continues!

The use of recyclable materials in manufacturing produces enormous benefits:

  • Maximizes the usability and the sustainability of renewable resources. 
  • Preserves natural resources and eliminates the need for mining, drilling for oil and natural gas, and other harmful environmental practices used to harvest raw materials.
  • Slows the pace of global deforestation.
  • Sends less material to waste.
  • Lowers energy costs.
  • Helps fight climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Creates thousands of jobs in local communities.
  • Builds a culture among employers and employees of proper environmental, health, and safety practices.

But some products are more recyclable than others. For example, single-use plastics like forks and spoons are often caught in recycling machinery because of their small and narrow shape and are therefore not very recyclable. But plastic bottles are easily recycled – and a bottle you recycle today could end up in the shirt you wear tomorrow! 

Your Challenge

Tell the story of a previous life of a product made from recycled materials and explain how the creation of this product is the key to sustainability and why it matters.

When a material reaches its end-of-life, it means that it can no longer be recycled or made into something new. The circle is broken and the cycle ends. Keeping materials in the cycle as long as possible is key. The more material that can be recovered, recycled and made into something new, the better! 


Shoe boxes are typically made of cardboard. After removing the shoes and tissue paper stuffing, that shoe box can be recycled. It can be made into many different things: a pizza box, a toilet paper roll, a shipping box, or countless other forms of paper found in your home. Each time that cardboard is recycled, it takes on a new “life” and continues to be useful!

Now it’s your turn to think and imagine...

In this year’s contest, you will create a Poster or Video that TELLS A STORY of a previous life of a product made from recycled materials and explain how the creation of this product is the key to sustainability and why it matters.

Your poster or video should:


  • Highlight a specific product and Identify the commodities (materials) that your product is made of. Your product should be made from one or more of the following materials:
    Electronics Fiber (Paper & Cardboard)
    Plastics  Glass
    Tires Textiles
    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.)
  • Identify something that is made out of recycled material You may need to conduct some research!
  • Research the recycling journey of that product you’ve chosen, including details about the parts that make up your product.  
  • Imagine how many other items your chosen product could have been before its current form. 
  • Explain why recycling is the key to sustainability and important to everyone and better for the earth! 
  • Include a picture or visual representation of your chosen product’s recycling journey!
  • Display the title “RECYCLING: The Key to Sustainability” on the title screen of the actual video or display clearly on the poster itself.
  • Be innovative!  Think creatively!

All entries must be submitted by Friday, December 16, 2022 by 11:59pm ET

** Download the Rules & Guidelines and the Help Guide and Rubric for important details and instructions about submitting your entry!

If you have any questions about submitting, please email for assistance.

Check out these helpful ISRI resources to learn more about life-cycles and sustainability!

Helpful Vocabulary:

  • Product: an item or substance that is manufactured (made) to sell.
  • Commodity:  a raw material that is used to make a product. Products might be made from more than one material or commodity. Examples are glass, metal, paper, textiles, electronics . . . etc.
  • Sustainability: ensuring earth’s resources will continue to be available far into the future without degradation to the Earth.
  • Non-renewable resource: a natural  resource that cannot be replenished by natural means at a pace that keeps up with the consumption or use of the resource.
  • Product life-cycle: describes the stages a product goes through from creation to end-of-life. 
  • End-of-life: the stage in a product’s life-cycle when none of the materials that made up the product can be recycled anymore or integrated into something new and the cycle ends.

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, teachers, and family members, this is an opportunity to hear from experts in the recycling industry, receive helpful tips and strategies for submitting a successful entry, and ask questions. This event is also great for students who are also undecided about entering and wish to learn more. 

*Please note, all students under the age of 18 must register for this event with an adult (family member, teacher, parent, guardian).

October 4th, 7-8pm EST
November 2nd, 4-5pm EST

All entries must be submitted by 

Friday, December 16, 2022 by 11:59pm ET

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

If you have any questions about submitting, please email for assistance.

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.

Recycling Activities Collection
See Past Contest Themes