14 Best Trash To Treasure Projects For School To Try Today

Trash-to-treasure projects encourage kids to think twice about what they do with their garbage.

Transforming old junk into something new shows that recycling can be fun, and it helps kids to engage with the natural world around them.


As well as the environmental benefits, trash-to-treasure projects can have an unexpected role in the classroom!

If you’re trying to introduce STEAM concepts, but struggling to get the kids to engage, a trash-to-treasure project could be the way forward! 

14 Inspiring Trash To Treasure Projects

We’ve rounded up 14 of our favorite trash-to-treasure projects that are perfect for the classroom. 

1. Tin Can Drum

Want to make music lessons a little more fun? Tin can drums teach kids to look for potential new uses for trash, and they make a pretty good sound!

You can make a basic tin can drum easily with clean tin cans, paper, and elastic bands.

Encourage kids to decorate the drums to show their personality, and experiment with how different sizes and materials make different noises. 

Tin can drums aren’t the only trash-to-treasure musical instruments you can make. Why not have a go at cereal box guitars or bottle top castanets

2. Egg Carton Flowers

A delightful trash-to-treasure craft for a spring day, egg carton flowers are easy to make and can be transformed into cards, wreaths, bouquets, and garlands. Try this craft when Mother’s Day is coming up!

You can have the students paint flowers from their imagination, but why not move this lesson outside?

Encourage kids to look for flowers in the wild, and recreate the colors and petals with their egg cartons. Or bring in pictures of flowers from around the world, to inspire their designs.

3. Cork Sailboats

Next time you open a bottle of wine, hang onto the cork!

Cork sailboats are a trash-to-treasure project that combines art with science, and it’s an excellent way to engage younger kids with some basic physics.

To make the boats, you simply need to secure two or three corks in a row with some elastic bands, before adding a sail made from fabric (or paper) and a popsicle stick.

Provide the students with a place for them to launch the boats (a small paddling pool works well), and they can experiment with what materials and designs float best.

4. Cardboard Marble Maze

Physics can be a difficult subject for younger students to grasp, but a cardboard marble run is a hands-on way to introduce ideas of force and gravity to the classroom.

With old cardboard, plastic straws, and any classroom junk, you can craft marble runs that encourage kids to get inventive.

There are many ways to build a DIY run. Make a maze in a shoebox to introduce gravity to the equation, or build a slide from paper plates. Send different sizes of marbles through the run, to see how they move. 

5. Smashed Soda Can Animals

Smashed soda can animals create adorable friends from one of the most common pieces of trash — soda cans.

Ask students to keep hold of the soda cans they drink at home, and bring them in for this craft. Make sure to give the cans a good soak before you start creating!

Smashed soda can animals encourage students to think outside the box when they’re making art. They’ll need to consider how the unusual shape can become a recognizable animal.

Another good choice is smashed soda can monsters! Students can really let their imagination run wild.

6. Tin Can Bird Feeder

One of the advantages of a trash-to-treasure project is that it gets students to think critically about how they use their environment. The tin can bird feeder exemplifies this idea.

By transforming old trash into something that helps the local animals, they’ll think twice before throwing things away. Plastic bottle bird feeders are another great trash-to-treasure project.

Set up the tin can bird feeders around the school, and ask the kids to keep track of the birds they see visiting. You can experiment with different food offerings, to see how that affects the visitor numbers.

7. Recycled Toilet Roll Cars

Recycled toilet roll cars are an easy trash-to-treasure project that can form part of a physics lesson. The basics of the car are simple.

All you need is a toilet roll tube, bottle tops, and straws. The bottle tops and straws form the working wheels, while the toilet roll tube makes the body.

Get the kids to play around with the design of their cars and stretch their imaginations.

The next step is to build a cardboard ramp. The students can send their cars down the ramps, measuring how quickly they go and how far they travel.

8. Paper Bag Animal Masks

Trash-to-treasure projects help kids to think deeper about the environment and how our actions contribute to the world we live in.

A craft like paper bag animal masks is a fun choice for the classroom, while also teaching kids about the local wildlife. 

Paper bag animal masks turn something that would otherwise go into the trash into a toy for the kids to treasure. You can then use the masks to put on a short play about the animals that live around the school.

9. Handmade Recycled Paper

School kids will absolutely love this handmade paper-making craft, although teachers might not be quite so keen!

Handmade paper is a messy craft, with lots of hands-on work. It’s fun, and the results are incredible, but expect a sticky classroom when you’ve finished.

You’ll need lots of scrap paper to make recycled paper. This is then ripped up and soaked, before being blended into a slurry.

You’ll need to make a mold and deckle, but this can be another trash-to-treasure project using old frames! The final paper is ideal for scrapbooking.

10. Baking Soda And Vinegar Rocket

The baking soda and vinegar rocket is a classic school science project, and kids love it every time!

Using basic scientific principles to create a foamy explosion that sends the craft shooting upwards, baking soda and vinegar rockets teach students about chemistry, physics, and engineering.

So, how are rockets a trash-to-treasure project? The best rockets are those made from old plastic bottles and other trash from around the home.

Students should experiment with their rocket designs, using old cardboard and other accessories to try to build the most aerodynamic design.

11. Recycled Cardboard Castle

It can be hard to get younger students to engage with history, but this trash-to-treasure project is sure to get them intrigued about the past.

The cardboard castle is not only a way to test their recycling skills, but a hands-on way to discover history.

This is a fantastic group project, as students work together to build the most impressive castle possible.

Bring in images of old castles, and encourage the kids to be historically accurate. As they build turrets and drawbridges, you can discuss how these features were once used.

12. DIY Ring Toss

Trash-to-treasure projects can seem a little boring to children who like to be up and about, which is why we love the DIY ring toss.

It finds a new use for bits of cardboard that you might otherwise throw away, and you can play with it once it’s been made!

All you need for a DIY ring toss is a cardboard tube and some paper plates. If you don’t have paper plates, cereal boxes are a great alternative.

Cut rings into the cardboard, and finish with a layer of brightly colored paint.

13. Recycled Bookmark Craft

Struggling to get your students to read? This trash-to-treasure project might not directly involve books, but homemade bookmarks can encourage kids to switch screens for paperbacks. 

There are really no rules to the recycled bookmark craft. Supply the class with bits of old cardboard, gift wrap, fabric scraps, broken jewelry — anything that you can glue down!

Students should decorate the bookmarks to reflect their personalities, and they can have fun with their creations. The results should be eye-catching, even when tucked into the pages of their latest read.

14. Peanut Butter Snow Globe

There’s always a lot of waste around the holiday season, and this upcycled craft is a great way to make kids think twice about how they approach their gifts.

By turning an old peanut butter jar into a cool new snow globe, kids can see the value of things they might otherwise have considered trash.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be peanut butter! Any old jars or plastic tubs can be turned into a snow globe, as long as they’re transparent and have a lid.

Students can fill their snowglobe with old toys they don’t play with, broken ornaments, or their own creations.

Final Thoughts

Trash-to-treasure projects encourage kids to get thinking about what they throw away. When they see the new things they can create from old junk, they’ll think twice when they head to the trash can. 

These projects can also be used to teach kids about STEAM! Experiments like recycled race cars and bottle rockets make use of trash while building science and engineering skills.

We hope this guide has inspired you to add trash to treasure projects to your classroom.

Helena Waters

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