Top 5 Recycled Materials for your art classroom

Top 5 Recycled Materials to Have in Your Art Room

Art teachers are master innovators. Improvising in a pinch is also one of our many superpowers. Raise your hand if you’re with me on this one. You can make masterpieces from recycled materials that others can’t even dream of and chances are, you’re always ready for the challenge.

But despite being able to turn trash into treasure, you might not have space to store the donations that end up outside your door or the cabinets full of supplies left behind.

You’re not alone. Trust me. I’ve been there and that’s why I thought it would be helpful to share our list of the top five recycled materials to have in your art room with you to help make some sense of it all.

Recycled materials can be used throughout the year to help teach resourcefulness by showing students new uses for everyday items. During the month of April and especially around Earth Day, incorporating recycled materials into projects can also reinforce ideas like conservation and sustainability.

Here is our list of the top five recycled materials to have in your art room:


Recycled materials for you classroom - Cardboard

Broken down boxes, both shipping and common packaging from food items like cereal are great to have on hand. Cereal boxes are easier for students to cut and are a great material for making templates for younger students to trace. Cut cardboard from shipping boxes can be used for a variety of purposes, from constructing 3D sculptures to making tools for stamping and scraping paint. Here is a great video on how to cut cardboard.

Plastic Lids and Other Containers

Best recycled materials for your art room plastic lids and containers

Lids make great circle tracers and having a collection in a variety of different sizes can make drawing perfect circles quick and easy. Some lids can also be used as individual paint palettes for acrylic paints. Once the paints dry, they’ll peel right off and the lid can be used again. The corresponding containers, depending on the size can also be good things to hang onto. For example, clean yogurt cups make great individual water containers or can be used to store mixed paints or glazes that can’t be poured back into their bottles.

Empty Toilet Paper & Paper Towel Tubes

Best recycled materials for your art room paper towels and toilet paper rolls

Not only can these be used to make 3D sculptures, they can also be used for stamping. Dip the ends in paint to print a circle or manipulate it by bending to print an oval or a heart or try cutting it to create petals for a flower or fireworks.

Newspaper & Magazines

recycled materials for your art room newspaper and magazines

Newspaper is obviously great for messy projects, but it’s nice to have available for papier-mache projects, too. Along with newspaper, magazines are great for collage projects. Having a selection of pre-approved pages or images on hand can also be used for quick, early-finisher drawing prompts.

Egg Cartons

Best Recycled Materials for your art room egg cartons

Egg cartons make great paint palettes and table supply holders for things like sequins, beans, gems, buttons, etc. but they can also be turned into interesting 3D sculptures.

Whether you are supplying your school’s Makers’ Space or preparing the next generation of activists, recycled materials are great to have in an art room.

Not sure you can save up enough materials yourself? Add a sentence in the school newsletter and you’ll have what you need in no time and probably more than you ever wanted.

Think of another material that you’d include on this list? No problem. Swap it out or add it on.

Your list might change from year to year but these top five recycled materials will likely be the constants that you’ll learn to count on.

You can find lessons that use recycled materials to help students explore the relationships between living things and their environments in the Ecology and Conservation Bundle, complete with standards and assessments in the Sparklers’ Club. Sign up for the waitlist HERE.

Recycled materials for your art room ecology and conservation

Share the recycled materials that you like to use in the comments below.

Top 5 Recycled Materials to have in your art room

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  • Marsha

    Loved this Thank you! I will be doing a recycled art display at an Earth Day at our local community garden. These ideas are perfect to incorporate and show the families ways they can use items they would otherwise discard! Thank you so much!

  • ester oliver

    excellent ideas! thank you

  • Vicki Cassady

    Looking forward to lesson plans!

    • Margaret Everson

      Other items to save. Plastic packaging, clothing tags off new clothing, frozen juice cans, old school work from in my case my grandchildren. All throws aways that I come accross, I hold in my hands and think able how they could be used in art.

  • Janice Testagrossa

    Great info. I am the collector of all things that classroom teachers don’t want. We make use of everything.

  • Angela Price Rubin

    I love all your lesson plans have inspired me for years. I wish you would go back to charging for lesson plans so I can pick the ones I want.



  • Alicia

    Great ideas! Thank you

  • Jill Phillips

    Yes, was saving all the above for a decade until I finally graduated and am now using them. I will also add meat packing foam trays. Good for printing plates and as a palette.

  • uyennguyen

    That a good idea! I having a recycle project for grade 6 -7-8-9-10. I think this your idea is so well! Thankyou so much!

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