Back to School

A group of smiling primary school children running towards the camera

A #WasteNothing lesson in going back to school

For many, the start of a new school year is forever linked with the smell of stationery shops and new school uniforms. But back to school doesn’t have to mean back to the shops!

Our #WasteNothing experts share their tips to waste less and save money as you prepare for the new school year. There are lots of ways you can find the things you need while reducing, reusing and recycling as much as possible.

Uniforms and kit

A red school uniform jumper and grey skirt

If your child has outgrown their uniform, try second-hand options before spending money on new kit:

Bristol Uniform Exchange have a Facebook page where you can swap or buy quality second-hand uniforms, school bags and more. They also provide free items if you’re struggling to cover the cost.

Try asking on your local community Facebook pages where there may be other families from the same schools looking to give or get uniforms.

Old School Uniform is an online platform founded by parents where you can give away or sell your unwanted school uniforms items. You can search by school name and see what’s available.

Make school uniform last longer

You can extend the life of your child’s school uniform by using the correct washing machine settings or making small repairs to linings, zips, and buttons. Love Your Clothes has helpful guides on how to care for different fabrics, and how to fix zippers, patch holes, and much more. There is also a handy stain removal section.

Donate good quality school uniforms

Just as finding pre-loved items for your family can save you money and reduce your impact on the environment, if you find yourself with good quality uniform that just doesn’t fit anymore, passing it on to another student is a great way to help everyone waste less.

The first step is to ask if your school has a take back scheme. If not, why not suggest they start one?

If it’s branded, ask charity shops within your school catchment area, if they accept and sell it. It’s likely other parents donate and shop there too, so you can drop off items and look for new ones.

You can also post in the Facebook groups previously mentioned to see if anyone is looking for uniform in the sizes you have.

Recycling school uniform

If you have uniform which is worse for wear and can’t be reused, then you can recycle it at one of Bristol’s recycling centres. Some charity shops, clothing banks, and in-store collection points accept non-reusable, damaged textiles or rags. Old clothes need to be washed and dried before donation and put in a bag clearly labelled “rags”.


A smiling secondary school student sat at her desk

A new school term doesn’t have to mean all new stationery. Scrap stores are a great place to look for craft materials and stationery, as well as having scrap items, they often have new arts and crafts materials on sale. Visit Childrens Scrapstore in Bristol and see what you can find!

If you are buying new stationery, look for items with reusable components such as fountain pens or biros with refillable or replaceable ink cartridges.

You can also try looking for stationery on local buying and selling groups on Facebook, Freecycle and Gumtree.

Don’t let it go to waste

When your stationery runs out or dries up you can recycle it via TerraCycle’s Writing Instruments Recycling Programme. They will accept any brand of pen, highlighter, marker and correction fluid. Find your nearest collection point on the TerraCycle website.

Once collected the stationery is sorted, cleaned and melted into hard plastic which can be used to make new products.


School textbooks

There are lots of ways to find pre-loved textbooks or pass them on when you don’t need them anymore.

Books can’t always be recycled along with other paper recycling because of the glue that’s used to bind them. The best option is to reuse, donate or sell them.

  • Check with friends and family who might need similar books
  • Donate to your local charity shops
  • We Buy Books is a website where you can buy and sell old textbooks
  • Ask your schools or local libraries if they accept book donations.

Our recycling centres also have book banks where good quality books can be donated for reuse.

Packed lunches

A school bag and lunch box in a table

Another daily school activity which has the potential to create waste is lunch! Packed lunches can be packed with single use plastic and often return at the end of the day with lots of uneaten food.

Our waste nothing lunch box blog post is full of easy quick wins which will help you in your mission to #WasteNothing.

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