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Reusing school supplies


Linda Geist
University of Missouri Extension
Phone: 573-882-9185

Published: Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Story source:

Lucy J. Schrader, 573-882-4071

Back to School

COLUMBIA, Mo. – A new school year often means new school supplies, but there are ways to recycle and save.

For some families, the cost new supplies can be a burden, and many schools send parents a lengthy list of needed items. Putting together a mix of new and used supplies can help ease the cost, says Lucy Schrader, coordinator of University of Missouri Extension’s Building Strong Families program.

Oftentimes, notebooks, colored pencils and other items are still in good shape from the previous school year, and some schools send supplies home at the end of the year.

“Getting students involved can help them understand how reusing supplies is resourceful and how it can be good for the family financially,” Schrader says.

“You can also talk about trade-offs and how decisions impact the family in different ways,” she adds. “For example, if your youth reuses a backpack from last year, what can the family do with the money that was saved? Can you use it for a fun activity during the year instead, such as roller skating, going out to eat or buying something for another family who might have special needs?”

Going through this process can help youth get a better idea of costs and how they can be a part of the decision-making process, she says.

Schrader offers some tips on reusing school supplies:

Tear out used pages from spiral and composition notebooks. Some kids only fill a few pages out of several notebooks, which leaves a large part of the notebooks with good, usable pages. To spruce up an old notebook, decorate the cover with stickers and duct tape to create a “new,” one-of-a-kind notebook.

Other possible items to reuse if they are in good condition:

  • School boxes.
  • Pink erasers (still work even if partly used).
  • Markers (test markers to see if they still work).
  • Colored pencils (can be sharpened and reused).
  • Folders.
  • Crayons.

Backpacks and bags can be traded or recycled. If kids want a new design, think about adding a patch or beads or something to hang from the zipper pull to give last year’s pack a new look. Siblings or friends might trade backpacks for a year to get a different color or design without paying for a new bag?

If your budget is tight, talk to your child’s teachers to see if you can bring in some supplies later in the year. Classes use supplies such as tissues, plastic bags or antiseptic wipes throughout the year. Teachers may have enough to get started at the beginning of the year and will be agreeable to receiving items later.

Donate supplies you won’t be using. If you have crayons, markers, paints, paper or other supplies that you will not be using but are still in good shape, Schrader suggests donating them to those who can still get plenty of use from them, such as after-school programs, day cares or summer camps.