33 Recycling Games For Teaching Your Kids (And Yourself) About Responsible Waste Disposal

recycling games for kids
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While I can’t say for certain, I’d guess that recycling’s become so associated with environmental responsibility because it plugs right into our consumer society. As long as you know which materials go where, you don’t have to give recycling much more thought: just continue to consume and toss.

As we’ve shown many times, there’s much more to recycling: technical challenges and economics alone complicate the picture tremendously beyond what we see in our own homes. And while we don’t all have to become experts on the whole process of recycling, understanding the bigger picture helps us handle our role in the chain of activities more mindfully and responsibly.

Of course, kids want to know all of those details, and soak them up like little sponges. And play is their preferred (and most effective) means of learning. So I spent some time over the last few days looking around for games that introduce kids (and, probably, their parents) to the ins and outs of recycling.

While your kids will play most of these games on screens – either computer or mobile device – I also dug up a few “live action” games. Some are certainly more educational than others, but they’ll all introduce aspects of the recycling process that we don’t pick up automatically when dropping a can or bottle into the bin.

Know of games that we don’t have listed here? Share them with us in the comments, and I’ll add them to the list.

“Live Action” Recycling Games

These games all take place off-screen: outside, on a board, or with cards. Next time you’re having a party for the little ones, or just a group over, consider using one or more of these to keep them entertained.

The 3Rs Game: Part of a classroom Earth Day set of activities – you can print out the game board from Google Docs.

Recycling or Garbage?: A homemade flash card game for your preschooler.

Recycling Relay: Part of a Lorax-themed birthday party plan, this relay race game will encourage your guests to run off some energy while learning about sorting recyclables.

Let’s Recycle Sorting Game: From Lakeshore Learning, another game in which teams of kids sort trash, recyclables, and compostables.

Recycling Bin Game for Cub Scouts: OK, this doesn’t have to be played with Cub Scouts, but it’s designed to help them learn information necessary for their Wolf rank.

Online Recycling Games

While the best technology seems to head for the mobile space these days, some of the games are well-designed, and look fun to play. Several really give kids a good opportunity to dig into the complexities of recycling.

Super Sorter: Keep America Beautiful’s game combines sorting and economics. I had a little trouble figuring out what to do, though.

Schoolyard Recycling: From a New Zealand-based educational website, this game challenges players to sort out trash, compostables, and recyclables. The controls struck me as a bit glitchy.

Recycle This!: From NASA, another sorting game. I couldn’t get this one to work; if you have more luck, let us know.

3Rs Most Extreme Challenge: Another sorting game, but this one provides great information once the play is over. From California’s Integrated Waste Management Board.

CanIt: From CalRecycle, this one strikes me as Frogger with a recycling theme (and you’ll show your age if you get that reference). Not a lot of educational value here.

Clean Up the River: Designed for primary school kids, this game from Clean Up Australia has a bit of educational value, but there’s more emphases on hand-eye coordination.

Sort ‘n’ Recycle: From the UK’s Nationwide Education, another game for identifying and sorting materials.

Michael, Michael, Go Recycle: A part of commercial site Gamesgames.com, this one works a lot like Pac-Man (another reference that shows your age).

Garbage Dreams: Found on PBS’ website, this game is affiliated with the film Garbage Dreams. A great combination of waste management and cultural lessons, and a bit more complex than many of the other games listed here.

Ollie’s Super Hero Sorting Game: Another sorting game tied to Ollie environmental programs.

EcoKids: This Canadian website has a collection of waste-related games for a variety of ages.

Recycle Rush: Tied to Nickolodeon’s own boy band Big Time Rush, this is pretty much all hand-eye coordination – I don’t see any learning value.

ROSCOE’s Recycle Room: Another collection of games, sponsored by the Steel Recycling Institute.

playing game on a smart phone
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Recycling Games for Mobile Devices

I didn’t take the time to download and try all of these out, so make sure to check out user reviews to get a sense of appropriateness for your kids.

Games for Android:

All of these are free to download; some offer in-app purchases

Recycle Dump Truck Simulation

Recycling Toss

Hammermill Recycle Toss

Educational Kids Recycling

Garbage Trucker Recycling Sim

Recycle Rangers

I Recycle

Recycle Time

Games for iOS:

Recycling Truck – $.99

Gro Recycling – $2.99

Recycle Hero for Kids – $2.99

NYCrecycles – Free

TrashChaos – Free

Race to Recycle – Free

Recycling Moo! Lite – Free

About the Author

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog. You can keep up with all of his writing at Facebook, and at