I recently had the opportunity to visit Single Stream Recyclers in Sarasota, thanks to the Carton Council, for a tour of the incredible facility. As a “recycling novice” I was so intrigued to learn all the things. I was especially excited to see the newest recycling robot that can now sort cartons. Not only did Single Stream Recyclers have one robot but they had six, which makes them one of the most innovative facilities in the world. I came home from my visit empowered to change the way we did things in our home. I knew that educating my family, and making a few small changes, would have a huge impact. We started off by creating this simple and fun family recycling center. I made custom labels and fun activities to help my kids feel involved in the process. Plus we started to implement some easy techniques to make this center actually work. I hope that you can take some things away (including these free printables) to help you on your journey to be a recycling friendly family.



The first part of our day had to be about education. My girls (ages 6, 5, and 3) didn’t even know what recycling meant. Here are a few things we reviewed

  • The 3 “R”s (reduce, reuse, recycle)
  • How do we know if things are recyclable (look for the symbol and check with your local facility)
  • What are the steps to recycling (scroll down to review the steps)

One of the most interesting things I learned when visiting Single Stream Recyclers was how they sort the items when they come in. I was fascinated to see the process and learn what we can do as individuals to help with that. One of the biggest things is making sure you only send things that can actually be recycled. Check with your local facility to make sure you are aware of what items can be recycled in your area.

Did you know you could recycle your cartons? I was so surprised to find out that I could recycle the cartons from my coffee creamer and my girls juice boxes. If you are wondering if cartons can be recycled in your area be sure to check THIS SITE.


Once we got the basics down we decided it was time to have fun and put these new found skills into practice.

We used our new labels and a couple of unused containers to make a recycling center.

One for waste, one for recycling, and soon we are going to make a special one for compost.

to download you recycling center sign.



to download the labels.

We printed the labels on sticker paper and cut them out and placed them to the front of the containers.

Next we used a recyclable carton I had around the house to simulate a real life recycling situation and followed these easy.

  1. Empty your carton (Pro tip: No need to rinse as long as you shake all those last drops of liquid or food out; this avoids having spoiled food or drink make a mess of your recycling at home or at the recycling facility)
  1. Toss it in the recycling bin (Pro tips: don’t crush your cartons, keep the caps on, and push your straw back into those small milk or juice cartons)
  1. Take it to the curb with all your other recyclables

Recycling  cartons is so much easier than I thought. It actually isn’t any extra work compared to throwing it in the trash but so much better for our planet.


Next I showed the girls this video of a robotic arm in action at Single Stream Recyclers. It was able to detect the cartons and sort them at such a speed. My girls were in awe!


Our last activity of the day was this fun worksheet I created for them. They cut out the boxes and tried to sort the items into the proper bins. Some items kind of stumped them but it was such a great opportunity to talk it over with them and teach them why recycling is so important.


to download the Activity Sheet

Putting it into action

Now that the recycling center has been up for a few days I am actually starting to see that it works. The girls and I are having a blast looking for the recycling symbol on our items and they are being so helpful.

Just today my daughter took her juice box carton, turned to me and said “look mom, a carton, I know what to do”


She took it to the sink, turned it over to get any liquid out, stuck the straw in, and put it right in the bin.

I could see on her face how empowered she felt and I felt this huge joy knowing that I am helping to teach my girls how to take care of our planet.

Thank you so much to The Carton Council and Single Stream Recyclers for having me out to visit the facility and learn so much about how cartons are recycled. I know its already making a big difference for my family.