Child recycling symbol

Most American kids today grow up with a recycling bin and an understanding that items like paper and plastic bottles can be turned into something new. What they’re less often taught is how big items — think cars and concrete — can be recycled.

Recycling — ‘Bigger Than the Bin’

That’s where this year’s Youth Video and Poster Contest from the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) and JASON Learning comes in. Following the theme “Recycling Is Bigger Than the Bin,” students in grades K-12 were asked to brainstorm how items other than the newspapers, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles commonly found in blue bins are recycled. The item chosen by the students had to include one or more of the following commodities:

  • steel,
  • plastic,
  • glass,
  • nonferrous metals,
  • tires/rubber,
  • textiles
  • and paper.

They then had to find a way to recycle it and depict their findings in the style of a public service announcement through either a poster or video.

Now in its third year, “this contest further generates interest in the recycling industry that could lead children to pursue careers in or related to recycling,” says Robin Wiener, president of ISRI.

That just may be the case. This year’s grand-prize poster winner, eighth-grader Angelica Devers, says she’s definitely more interested in diving deeper into the subject area.

“I didn’t really think about what happened to TVs and swing sets and everything like that, so when I was creating the poster, I had to do some research and I got really informed on the subject,” she says. “I never realized how many different parts were inside a TV and you recycle each one in a different way. I want to learn more about what can be recycled and how it can because I find that the most interesting part — these objects are made up of so many different things and they all get separated into different groups, and I really like the process of how they get separated.”

Angelica won a trip to ISRI’s Annual Convention & Exposition in Las Vegas, along with the grand-prize video winners, seventh-graders Eleanor Small and Megan Onello.

“We think it’s really important that our generation learns how to recycle, and a lot of people don’t think about the ‘bigger than the bin’ aspect of it,” Eleanor says. “There are definitely ways to recycle most anything, really, and I don’t think we would ever think about recycling a swing set until now. It’s opened our eyes.”

Check out the winning entries below:

Bigger Than the Bin Poster - Recycling Awareness Competition
Grand-prize poster winner: Angelica Devers, eighth grade, Kapolei, Hawaii

Grand-prize video winners: Eleanor Small and Megan Onello, seventh grade, Hampstead, N.H.

Feature image credit: Sunny Studio / Shutterstock

By Haley Shapley

Haley Shapley is based in Seattle, where recycling is just as cool as Macklemore, walking in the rain without an umbrella, and eating locally sourced food. She writes for a wide range of publications, covering everything from sustainability to fitness to travel. Read more of her work here.