Recycling in Schools

Denver Public Works Solid Waste Management/Denver Recycles provides trash and recycling service for all Denver Public Schools and works extensively with DPS to educate students, teachers, parents and staff about the importance of recycling and waste reduction.


Denver Recycles Provides Denver Public Schools:

  • Purple bins for each classroom and office 
  • Recycling carts and/or recycling dumpster for large schools
  • Weekly recycling collection
  • Introductory presentation at school staff meeting  
  • Assemblies to help kick-off the program and motivate students to participate  
  • An opportunity for kids to understand the benefits of recycling, create life-long habits and become environmental stewards   
  • Supplemental materials such as lesson plans, fact sheets and classroom posters for K-5 or 6-12
  • Ongoing technical assistance by Denver Recycles staff

If you represent a DPS school and have questions about recycling, please email

More Information and Resources

Recycle Sort & Color (Grades K-2)  Summary:  Students learn how to sort their waste into recycling or trash using the Denver Recycles purple cart program. 
  Earth Pockets (Grades K-5)  Summary:  Students trace everyday objects back to the natural resources from which they were made and learn how to conserve natural resources and protect animal habitats.
  Reusing Winter Waste (Grades 2-4) Summary:  Students will learn the benefits of reuse by making a winter decoration with reused items.  
  Recycle Tag (Grades 3-5) Summary:  Students play a game that reinforces their knowledge of what materials can and cannot be recycled.   
  It's A Wrap (Grades 3-6) Summary:  Students use math and observation skills to analyze packaging of everyday items, and learn how to conserve natural resources and reduce litter and waste.
  I Want It! I Need It! (Grades 3-6) Summary:  Students play a sorting game to compare the difference between the things they need and the things they want. 
  I Want It! I Need It! (Grades 7-12)  Summary:  Students evaluate the difference between the things they need and the things they want and analyze their consumption habits. 

Teachers, do you need supplies for your classroom projects and lessons?  Then check out RAFT!
RAFT transforms businesses' surplus materials into hands-on learning activities for students. RAFT has a reputation for knowing what teachers need to create meaningful learning experiences that are filled with the joy of discovery. RAFT accepts material donations Monday - Saturday; will schedule pick up pallet-size or larger donations.

2875 Blake Street
Denver, Colorado 80205

Here are some ways you can lessen your impact on the environment and still have a fantastic school year:

  • Encourage families to buy items on your school supply list that are made from recycled content. Buy notebooks, folders and writing paper made from recycled paper. When shopping look for products made from recycled paper or recycled-content paper. Try and get the brands with the highest percentage of recycled content, such as brands marked Made from 100% recycled post-consumer recycled paper. It is important to buy products made from recycled material so we can help to "close the recycling loop. By selecting products made of recycled content material you will be supporting residential recycling programs and their associated markets.
  • Reuse empty plastic tubs for storing pencils, paper clips or other small items needed on hand for school.
  • Recycle school papers such as old homework and tests in your Denver Recycles purple cart. Each ton of recycled paper can save 17 trees.
  • Pack lunches in reusable containers instead of disposable plastic bags or plastic wrap. If reusable containers are not an option, try wrapping sandwiches in aluminum foil, which you can recycle in your Denver Recycles purple cart.
  • Avoid buying single-serving, non-recyclable food items such as juice boxes, individual chip bags and cereal variety packs. You can also cut down on wasteful packaging and by buying items in bulk.
  • Don’t waste paper! Write and print on both sides. Set your computer and printer to “double-sided” as the default option so documents automatically print double-sided. Printing double-sided handouts, reports and tests can dramatically reduce paper use, which saves nature AND saves money. Did you know that the average American uses 650 pounds of paper per year?
  • Collect scratch paper for reuse. Start saving one-sided print jobs in a box, file or basket and use these papers for scratch paper when doing math problems, taking notes or completing art projects.
  • Instead of buying bottled water for lunches and field trips, pour drinks in a reusable, durable water bottles or thermoses.
  • Donate bulk amounts of items such as CD cases, cork, wire, block foam, fabric to Resource Area For Teaching (RAFT) Colorado. RAFT transforms surplus materials into hands-on learning activities for students. For more information on RAFT call 303-548-2587 or visit online at

Each year when students clean out their lockers or desks, paper and other materials that could have been recycled or reused are needlessly thrown away. Think of all the work your school has put into waste reduction and recycling this year! Why stop now. Instead, follow this simple step-by-step plan for organizing an end of year clean-out and see how much your school can reuse, recycle and donate. 

 Advance Planning:

  1. Identify a staff member, club or group of students to take the lead in preparing for, promoting and monitoring the cleanout. This could be an environmental club or Green Team, student council, or class that is particularly interested in being involved.

  2. Discuss the collection process/details with administration and facilities manager. You should determine:

    • When will the event be held? Will it be a designated day for all students, or will each grade or floor be assigned a separate "cleanout" day? For high schools, will students be given time during homeroom or study hall to clean out their lockers and how much supervision will be required?  We encourage you to hold your clean-out on a day immediately following one of your recycling collection days to ensure that you have enough space for all you recyclables.
    • Where will  recycling/trash/reuse stations be set up in the school? Will you place recycling carts/bins next to trash cans at each end of hallways, or will you designate one large sorting station per floor?  We suggest that if you have adequate space in the hallways that you place stations as close as possible to lockers and classrooms, making recycling during the clean-out very easy.
    • How many recycling carts/bins will be present at each recycling station?  Seeing that recyclable paper makes up most of a school's waste stream, we would encourage you to have more recycling carts/bins then trash cans at each station.
    • How will you  collect items for reuse? Will you have a cardboard box at each recycling station for all reusable items or will you have several boxes labeled for various common reusable items such as teacher supplies, books, clothes, notebooks, pencils, pens, etc.?

   3.     Begin saving cardboard boxes from the kitchen that can be labeled and use to collect reusable items.

   4.     Educate students and staff through signs and announcements about the "cleanout" and how to participate.

   5.     If possible, enlist parent volunteers, students and staff to monitor recycling stations on the day(s) of the cleanout.

Recycling During Cleanout Day

    1.     Label recycling bins/carts clearly
, explaining what goes in and what stays out. Although students have already been recycling during the school year, an extra reminder during this busy time will be helpful. 

    REMEMBER...what is  not accepted in the recycling:
    • Laminated paper, paper cups, paper towels, napkins & tissues
    • Food
    • Plastic bags, wrappers, tubs, cups, trays, crates
    • Foam cups, trays, blocks, packing peanuts, etc.
    • Electronics (Contact DPS Enterprise Management at 720-423-5650 for pick-up of no longer needed or working electronics and furniture.
    • Paint, batteries, chemicals, CFLs, etc. (Contact DPS Facilities Management at 720-424-5454 for disposal of potentially hazardous materials.)


2. Relocate all trash cans in hallways and common areas so they are paired with recycling carts/bins at your designated recycling stations, making it easy for students to sort trash from recyclables. Never have a trash can by itself in a hallway or common area, as it's sure to collect materials that could have been recycled.
3. Monitor the recycling stations to ensure students are recycling the correct materials and to switch out recycling carts and trash cans as they get full.

Reuse During Cleanout Day

Many materials students throw away at the end of the school year can be used again in the future. Examples include crayons, notebooks, markers, glue, scissors and many other school supplies.
1. Set aside a central location as a  reuse area and encourage students to bring items that can be used again next year to that location. Or, include labeled reuse boxes at each of your recycling stations throughout the school. ( Designate a "reuse closet" for these materials for student and staff to visit in the fall and obtain supplies free of charge.)

2.   Place clothes donation boxes in a central reuse area or next to recycling stations for students to deposit unwanted clothing. Some students (especially older students) will throw out clothes at the end of the year rather than taking them home. These leftover clothing items can be donated to a local charity organization. (Identify a staff member or parent who can take the donated items to a local donation center.)

Marv the Milk Jug Mascot"Marv The Recyclable Milk Jug" has put together some fun activities and games for kids of any age. Check it out!