School recycling

Here you will find everything you need to know about recycling, composting and litter management in your school.

Due to staff shortage, unfortunately we cannot offer our usual assemblies and classroom-based talks (which were on a range of waste and recycling topics for children at nursery right through to sixth form students. )

It’s a great way to get children and young people to think about recycling from an early age.
NB.  Due to staff shortages we are unable to offer these assemblies/ talks and workshops at the moment.

  • a 20 to 30-minute assembly on the topic of recycling or litter awareness
  • longer assemblies combining the two topics can be arranged and last between 30 to 40 minutes
A classroom-based talk or workshop can also be organised on one or more of the following topics:
  • recycling and what happens to waste
  • litter
  • food waste
  • composting
  • litter picking support
Your school can also book talks and extra support for staff including waste reviews and expert advice on improving recycling.
NB. Due to staff shortages we are currently unable to offer thse assemblies.  If, and when we can the following points should be noted.

  • Talks and recycling assessments are free of charge.
  • Any Northumberland school can book a talk or recycling assessment.
  • A class teacher must be present at all times.
  • All recycling assessments must be completed alongside the school caretaker or a teacher.
  • The waste education officer will bring a Northumberland County Council ID badge and is no longer CRB/DBS registered, on advice from HR.
  • If class behaviour is poor, we may have to finish a workshop early.
  • No more than 36 pupils in a workshop.
  • Any other activities, like litter picking, should be discussed separately.
NB. Due to staff shortages we currently cannot offer talks, workshops and assemblies.  Enquiries should be sent to

When we do offer activities you may like to know about the following campaigns:
  • Waste Week: March
  • Compost Awareness Week: 5-11 May 2019
  • National Recycling Week: Week beginning 23-29 September 2019
We’re always striving to improve our service so if you have any feedback about a visit, please complete this form
Northumberland has 12 household waste recovery centres all managed by SUEZ UK Ltd on behalf of Northumberland County Council. Field trips to the sites can be arranged for small groups, usually no more than 15 students, and the sites are closed to the public for about 20 minutes during your visit.
  • Have your trip approved by your headteacher and the council – complete an EVOLVE risk assessment form and submit it at least four weeks in advance.
  • Contact SUEZ directly to arrange the day, time and size of your group visit on 01670 843504.
  • Arrange for school staff to visit the site before your trip takes place to complete a risk assessment with SUEZ UK Ltd.
  • Provide enough staff to supervise the children on your trip. External providers (like SUEZ or council staff) cannot be included in your staff/child supervision ratio.
  • The sites are closed to the public for about 20 minutes during your visit.
Children must be aware that although they are on a special visit to the site, on other occasions they would not be allowed out of the vehicle and would have to watch from the vehicle window.
West Sleekburn Materials Recycling Facility is a working environment with no dedicated viewing cabin for educational visits. It is a noisy and sometimes dusty environment with moving conveyor belts, machinery and vehicles.

The walking route around the facility includes many steps and walkways at a height. There are hand rails in these areas, but with quite large gaps between rails.

Please note that some machines have powerful magnets that may affect pacemakers and other electrical devices.

SUEZ UK Ltd and Northumberland County Council offer occasional visits to the facility but only for those with a specialist interest e.g. engineering students, environmental students.

Arranging your visit
Call Sheila Johnson at NCC  if you would like to make a booking (01670 624429)
  • Visitors must be 14 years old or over.
  • Groups should be no larger than 12, including adults.
  • Gain headteacher approval and submit an EVOLVE risk assessment form at least four weeks in advance.
  • Arrange for school staff to visit the site before your trip takes place to complete a risk assessment with SUEZ.
Click here for more information on how we manage your waste.
Helping pupils and staff protect the environment.

Advice for schools to set up or further develop a recycling and waste management scheme that will be successful and sustainable. 

School waste guide for caretakers and school managers
What can you recycle in school?
Any schools with a Northumberland County Council or SUEZ UK Ltd recycling collection can recycle the materials listed below:
  • all plastic bottles - please rinse and remove lids
  • newspapers, junk mail, magazines, catalogues, envelopes, writing and drawing paper
  • card and cardboard
  • clean food and drinks cans
  • empty aerosol cans
  • biscuit and sweet tins (metal only please)
The materials we can recycle are easy to rinse and minimise contamination, so it’s important to only place the items listed in your recycling bins. To make it easy for employees and pupils, print and laminate our ‘What to Recycle’ poster and display in school or on recycling bins.

What can’t you recycle in school?
  • paper towels, tissues and shredded paper
  • plastic wrappings or tubs
  • food waste
  • crisp packets
What happens to your school recycling and rubbish?
Your recycling is taken to a materials recycling facility at West Sleekburn for sorting, before being sent on and made into new products. Your rubbish is converted into electricity at an ‘energy from waste’ plant. It’s not put into landfill, so it’s much better for our environment.
Recycling bins and labelling
  • Have a recycling point in every room - don’t forget non-teaching areas like the office, staff room and kitchen.
  • Label recycling points and waste bins clearly - this will help avoid the wrong things being put in the wrong bins.
  • Provide a rubbish bin next to every recycling bin - this makes it as easy to recycle as it is to throw something away. Rubbish bins should be a different colour to the recycling bins, making it very easy to put materials into the correct bins.
Involve the whole school
  • Keep people informed - make sure everyone knows what can be recycled at school and why it’s important.
  • Set up a rota for emptying the recycling points.
  • Motivate teachers to lead by example, recycling as much as possible and encouraging pupils to get involved.
  • Involve cleaning and support staff - ensure cleaning and support staff are informed of changes that affect them, and let them know how important their role is.
  • Spread your success - tell other people about successes, especially parents and the local press and praise all the teams involved.
  • Have regular recycling reports - report at assemblies and display amounts of recycling collected on a noticeboard to keep everyone informed and motivated.
Maintain your success
Watch out for any decline in recycling levels and keep a record of any problems with recycling e.g. contamination in recycling bins, items spotted in the general waste bins that could have been recycled.
A waste audit is the most important first step in setting up a waste management plan for your school.

Try to break your assessment down into more manageable sections, including:
  • The quantity of waste that is being created
  • Could waste be prevented or reduced?
  • Which items could be recycled or composted?
  • Which items should be disposed of in the rubbish bins?
  • Which items need to be disposed of more carefully and are potentially hazardous?
  • Which items can't be legally disposed of as general waste anymore?
Click here for waste audit lesson plans and information from Recycle Now.
Discuss recycling and waste collections or organise a quote for collections with our area waste managers. Call 0345 600 6400 and ask for the relevant area waste manager from the list below, or send them an email:
You might be entitled to free classroom and office recycling containers. To find out if your school qualifies, e-mail
If you’re recycling other materials we can’t process for you, like mobile phones, stamps, batteries and textiles, collect these items in containers that are clearly different from your normal recycling bins and collection points. Many charities and collection companies provide a container or bags for their collection service.
Help plan for school litter picking activities with links to information and resources.

Find out how your school could “adopt” an area while supporting the LOVE Northumberland campaign, and learn how Northumberland County Council could support your work.  
  • Tip- Thick undergrowth is often best avoided on litter picks with school groups and sticking to the path would be the advice for the following reasons-
  • Sharp items of litter and dog waste may not be easily spotted and could be stepped on.
  • Habitats and species could be damaged-  This is particularly the case during the spring and early summer when new growth habitats and wildlife such as nesting birds could be damaged and disturbed. There may also be nesting hedgehogs and other animals at various times of the year in the undergrowth.

Before your litter pick, please complete the following: You can also find your nearest litter action group or register an action group on the Litter Action website or The Big Tidy Up website.
  • Northumberland County Council can advise on possible areas for your school to litter pick or areas your school may like to “adopt” and look after on a longer term basis.
  • We can provide a Love Northumberland pledge certificate for your school to complete.
  • We can provide support for your school to litter pick, including providing equipment, collecting rubbish and perhaps even coming along on the day. Support will be discussed with schools on request. Please e-mail for information.
Please note: If your school has invited waste management or street cleansing staff into school to provide expertise for your litter pick event, the activity still remains to be the responsibility of your school, with a risk assessment completed by your school.

External staff cannot be included in your staff/child supervision ratio. Your school must provide supervision at an appropriate level for the age group and number of children taking part in the activity.
If you have a school recycling collection from Northumberland County Council or SUEZ Recycling and Recovery UK Ltd, cans and plastic bottles can be recycled from your litter pick in your school recycling bins. If you have decided to collect glass bottles and jars these can be put into a local recycling bank - please see our documents for advice on glass collections.

Find out where your local recycling banks are on our interactive recycling map. Please note that schools cannot use the Northumberland Household Waste Recovery Centres to dispose of any items. 

The Helping Hand Company provides litter campaign support for schools and they also sell litter picking equipment.

The following companies sell litter bins:, Amberol, Theme Bins, School Scapes, Bin Shop and Envirobin. Please try Keep Britain Tidy or Litter Action for a range of litter picking equipment.
For curriculum materials and activity ideas on litter campaigns, including printable posters and lesson plans, please try these links: To find out about beach clean-ups, campaigns and more, take a look at the Marine Conservation Society website. To find out about coastal activities near you, see the Northumberland Coast AONB website.
We aim to help support your composting at school efforts. You will find useful links to resources, advice on health and safety, information about recycling projects and how to get compost bins.

  • See Northumberland County Council’s composting guide, which also includes printable leaflets and posters.
  • The Recycle Now website includes useful information on composting, including a troubleshooting section and the composting at school guidance document.
  • Please take care when digging out your compost or aerating it with a garden folk in case hedgehogs have made a home in your compost heap.
Please read the Recycle Now composting at school guidance document. The last page includes a section on health and safety when composting.

Northumberland County Council doesn't require an EVOLVE form. However, a risk assessment and headteacher approval are highly recommended. Complete an EVOLVE form for your school records at a timescale demanded by your school.

It is recommended that schools read the SRA08 school grounds document from advisory service CLEAPSS, which provides supporting information for your risk assessments.

Top tips
  • Ensure any cuts are covered with plasters, gardening gloves are worn and hands are thoroughly washed on return indoors.
  • To help prevent wasps and bees, fruit waste can be kept in a lidded container and be put into a compost bin with the lid securely put back in place afterwards.
  • It is advised compost bins/areas are checked by an adult before children approach in case of issues such as wasps.
Please contact to see if there are any current compost bin offers available for Northumberland schools.

Alternatively, to purchase compost bins directly for your school or to buy composting accessories, visit Get Composting. Other options include wooden bay composting solutions and HOTBINs
Ideas for lessons on recycling and waste reduction

Students doing home economics, catering or working with textiles may like the following two websites-