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Ohio 4-H Youth Development

Ohio State University Extension


Choose to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

This is a 4-H Earth Is Our Home activity by Erin Dailey, Educator, 4-H Youth Development, OSU Extension Gallia County.

Topic: Sustainability | Estimated time: 40 minutes (after the cards are cut apart) | Appropriate for individuals and groups | PDF for PRINTING

recycling symbol and various recyclable materialsThink about the items people use and dispose of each day—bottled water, bottles and cans of soda, Styrofoam plates, grocery bags, newspapers, food, and more. What happens to these items after they are thrown in the garbage? Most likely, they end up in a landfill. Items in landfills can take weeks and even years to decompose. How can you help make sure this doesn’t happen?


  • Reduce, reuse, recycle pages and sorting cards, printed and cut apart (see PDF for Printing above)
  • Household items for additional challenges

What to Do

Place the Recycle and Garbage page on a flat surface. Determine if each item should be recycled or thrown out by putting its card in the appropriate stack.

Collect the cards into one stack again and place the Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle page on a flat surface. This time there is no garbage! Can you reduce, reuse, or recycle each item? Some items may fit into more than one category. You might be able to reuse an item that another person would choose to reduce or recycle.

Talking It Over

Write your answers to these questions and talk about them with your project helper or another caring adult. 

SHARE What items make up the most of what is thrown away in your home?

REFLECT Can some of what is thrown away at your own home be reduced, reused, or recycled instead?

GENERALIZE What other ways can you reduce, reuse, or recycle at school, at someone else’s home, or in public places?

APPLY Name at least one benefit to reducing, reusing, and recycling.

More Challenges

Find 10 items around your house and sort into the categories of reduce, reuse, and recycle. Share your experiences with a friend or family member and challenge them to do the same.


Landfills are necessary to properly dispose of waste, keep waste out of the environment, and keep communities clean. They do, however, take up lots of space for a very long time. The more we can keep items out of landfills, the longer those landfills will last, and the less space will be needed for new landfills. There are over 3,000 active landfills and 10,000 closed landfills in the United States, making most of this land unusable for many years. 

  • Reducing cuts down on the amount of garbage. A simple example is using a reusable plate, bag, or bottle instead of a disposable one. Another example is using the back side of a piece of paper instead of using a new piece.
  • Reusing helps reduce the number of items going into the trash by finding new uses for items. Some ways you might reuse items are fixing something that is broken instead of getting a new one, donating used clothing so someone else can wear it, and reusing empty containers for some other, useful purpose.
  • Recycling uses special equipment to separate recyclable materials and process them in different ways to make them into new things.  Some items that are recyclable include paper, aluminum, tin cans, cardboard boxes, and many different types of plastics.  Check with your local recycling facilities to see what items they accept.

Did you know?

According to Conserve Energy Future, it costs on average $30 per ton to recycle trash, $50 to send it to the landfill and $65 to $75 to burn it. That makes recycling an incredible bargain!

Vocabulary Words

garbage. Any matter that is no longer wanted or needed; trash.

landfill. A low area of land that is built up from deposits of solid waste in layers covered by soil.

recycle. To treat or process used or waste materials in order to make them suitable for reuse.

reduce. To cut back on the amount of trash that we use.

reuse. To use again in the same or a different way.

Learn More!

This 7-minute video called Recycling for Kids: Learn How to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle explains recycling and makes easy-to-do suggestions.

Want to know more fun facts? Check out 70+ Interesting Facts About Recycling That Will Stir Your Curiosity at


The Hidden Damage of Landfills, Kayla Vasarhelyi.

Recycling for Kids: Learn How to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Learn Bright.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. United States Environmental Protection Agency.

70+ Interesting Facts About Recycling That Will Stir Your Curiosity. Conserve Energy Future.


Project skill: Learning to reduce, reuse, and recycle | Life skill: Be a responsible citizen | Educational standard: NGSS 5-ESS3-1. Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment. | Success indicator: Sorts pictures of items by reduce, reuse, and recycle