01 Nov, 2023
Written By: Josh Morris

Waste Management in Nurseries & Childcare: A Comprehensive Guide to Sustainability

Welcome to the Waste Management Guide for Nurseries, where we're all about making waste management as easy as 1,2,3.

As you know, nurseries are where kids start their journey of learning and growing, and it's the perfect place to teach them about taking care of our planet. As teachers and carers, you're environmental superheroes, showing our little ones how to be Earth's best friends. 

In this guide, we've got some super easy and fun ideas to help you keep your nursery clean, green, and sustainable & discover how to turn waste management into a playful game. The place where reducing, reusing, and recycling can be child's play.

So let's jump in and discover how waste childcare waste management is not just easy but exciting! 

What Type of Waste Does a Nursery Create and What Bins Would We Recommend? 

We all know the main waste that we all think of when you mention a Nursery. 30/40 kids with stinky nappies! Yes, you guessed it, there is going to be a lot of smelly and some would say hazardous waste.

Nappy waste, Baby Wipes, Nappy Sacks are going to be a main type, but, what other different types of waste does a Nursery create? 

Food Waste: As you would expect. Breakfasts, Lunches and Snacks will create food waste. 

General Waste: Alongside Nappies, general waste such as packaging from products. 

Glass & Plastic Waste: The usual suspects: Bottles, Jars, Glasses, Plastic Containers.

Paper & Cardboard: Forms, Documents, Rotas. All these could be excessive print outs that need waste disposal, alongside any cardboard from packaging such as Cereal, Juice etc.

Nursery Recycling Best Practices 

Recycling practices in Nurseries is not only a crucial for your overall nursery waste management but also a great way to teach young children about the importance of taking care of the earth.

Introducing these practices can not only increase and improve your workplace, but drive positive change in Children, Parents & Visitors. 

Here are some wonderful recycling practices:

Create Recycling Stations: Set up designated recycling stations full of colourful bins. Make sure each bin has clear labels and fun pictures on them. This will make it easier for children to identify where their items belong. 

Educate / Learn Through Play: Kids learn best through play, so make recycling a fun adventure. Use stories, games, and hands-on activities to help them understand why recycling is cool. Show them how their small actions can make a big difference.

Reuse & Re-purpose: Show them how to embrace the world of up-cycling, reusing and re-purposing. Dig out the arts and crafts to demonstrate how you can turning everyday items like plastic containers & empty cardboard boxes into works of art or life hacks. This instils creativity in children. It is time to get crafty!

Recycling Challenges and Games: Prepare challenges and games for your children. Make waste and recycling fun. You could play guess the bin, spot the non-recyclable difference etc. Offer small rewards to keep them interested.  

Garden Composting Adventures: If you have a garden, involve the children in composting. Teach them how to transform fruit and vegetable scraps into soil that makes plants grow! Watch them be amazed at your wizardry! 

Recycling Projects: Engage in special recycling projects, such as collecting bottle caps to send off for recycling. By doing this, you'll show the little ones the exciting journey recyclables take to become new and useful items.

Eco-Friendly Celebrations: When it is time to get the banners out for a birthday or special event for the little ones, why not choose eco-friendly decorations & party supplies? You could even get the kids involved in making decorations from recycled materials around the nursery. 

Set the Example: As always, try to be a role model by practicing sustainable behaviours yourself. Children often follow the lead of caring adults. Your actions speak louder than words. 

Reward positive actions - Celebrate positive recycling actions with the children. Applaud their efforts and share the positive impact they're making on the environment. This could be in the form of a Social Media post, or hold an awards ceremony in the day, so that they go home to their parents shouting out their recycling achievements!

Stay Safe: Prioritise safety. Teach the children how to handle recyclables carefully, especially with potentially sharp or hazardous items. 

As always, there will be plenty more tips, tricks & practices out there to help reduce waste in your nursery, so get exploring! 

If you are ever wanting more ideas, why not ask the Parents & Caregivers? Provide them with information and resources to continue the lessons learned at the nursery & you could also ask their advice on any tips that they use at home.

When you keep demonstrating to Children, Parents, Investors & your community that you are environmentally aware with your waste management practices, it not only creates a positive brand image, but, it could potentially persuade some parents to side with you when choosing a nursery for their child / children.

Nursery Waste Reduction Guide & Strategies 

Now that you have the little ones running round and focusing more on their recycling efforts, time to switch to you and your staff! 

There are plenty of ways to create an effective waste management plan for your business, and some of them are a quicker fix then you may think!

Digital Communication - Going Paperless: If you feel you are creating too much paper waste, look at moving more digitally, such as e-newsletters & online portals. This not only reduces waste, but it is easier for you to log and organise your schedules. 

Reusable Containers and Cutlery: Introducing reusable containers & cutlery will help to reduce the amount of single use plastic thrown away bringing down your costs, as less waste means you will need less frequent collections. Using reusable containers also shows you are aware of improving your sustainability which is a positive for your brand image. 

Bulk Purchasing: Bulk purchasing can help you make it easier to keep on top of your stock levels and works out cheaper in the long run. This also ensures less packaging and less waste. Win-Win. 

Recycling Stations: As mentioned in the last section. Organising your recyclable waste not only reduces waste but teaches your children the importance of recycling. 

Waste Audits - Carry out regular waste audits so that you know exactly how much waste you are creating (Every 6 months) If you don't know where to start when completing a Waste Audit, we have got some tips for you in the below section. 

Donation and Reuse - Send out a newsletter asking for donations, or to let them know that you are donating old items. This saves wastage. 

Food Waste Reduction - We don't mean starving the little blighters! We just mean keeping tabs on what seems to always left over and wasted at meal times (The green veg most likely). Also, look at techniques to reuse wasted items, such as Bubble & Squeak or reusing meat for a soup or broth. This is great way to teach youngsters the importance of reusing items rather then throwing them in the food waste bin.

Energy Efficient Practices: Turning off lights, switching off appliances are just some of the small processes that you can get the children involved in completing every day. Use energy efficient lighting, temperature control heating, recyclable building materials. All there practices can save you money and improve your workplace too. 

Reusable Nappies: Now this one may take some persuading of the parents but, the benefits of reusable nappies can't be understated. Reusing nappies reduces the amount of nursery's waste and also reduces costs for your Nursery and the parents of having to be disposable nappies every day/week. Offer parents to take them home and wash them, but you as the Nursery provide them. We know it's a tricky one which is why we saved it until the end but if you're going all in on sustainability it does have a huge impact. 

Sustainable Purchasing: 

Repair and Maintenance: Rather then shelling out hundreds of pounds to replace something, why not look to fix it yourself? We understand that if its a New Boiler, we don't expect you to be donning your overalls and playing with pipes. We just mean for any quick fixes, why not try and fix yourself. Also make sure to maintain your equipment all year round which will reduce the amount of issues arising. 

Green Events and Fundraisers: Host yearly fundraisers or look at different green events to sponsor. 

Parental Involvement: Let's be honest, parents love their children (Most parents don't stop talking about them) Use this to your advantage. Get parents involved in clean ups or projects that you are running. 

Reduce Single Use Plastics: Ditch the single use plastics such as plastic food bags, plates & knives and forks. 

Educational Initiatives: Create friendly competition between teams or members. Have house points for whoever picks up the most trash at the weekend & offer incentives to the Parents to help along. You could even put the parents into Teams, so that the children are actively pushing them to pick up more waste or recycle more etc/

Regular Waste Reviews: Review you waste streams frequently. Make note of the amount of waste and see if you are increasing or decreasing as each month passes by. This is a great way of deciding what and where you wastage can be reduced.

Remember it is all a process, keep practicing and working out what is right for your Nursery.

How to Carry out a Waste Audit at a Nursery 

Let's be honest, nobody enjoys audits of any kids, so conducting a waste audit is probably right down on your to-do list.

However, carrying out a waste audit is a great way to gain more understanding of the waste that you are creating, It gives you a chance to identify any areas of improvements, the types and amount of waste & points you in the right direction in regards to developing better strategies to reduce your waste. 

There may be a million steps that you are running through having to do in your head, but, trust us, it is simpler then you think. Follow our step by step guide below, so that you know exactly where to start and what to do!

1. Gather Supplies: Hoard those supplies together and get your war paint on! You will need the following:

  • Gloves
  • Garbage bags or bins
  • Recycling bins
  • Clipboards
  • Pens and paper
  • Sorting tables or surfaces

2. Form a Team: Recruit help from your nursery staff, parents, or older children (if suitable) to assist with your audit.

3. Choose a Sample: Now you have your recruits, time to choose a sample:

  • Select a normal day for the audit. This will be to represent a typical waste pattern.
  • Ensure you have an appropriate sample size by performing the audit over a few days or weeks.

4. Collection of Waste: Get the lifting on and your legs bent:

  • Throughout the audit day, collect all waste generated in your nursery. This includes both trash and recyclables.
  • Label each container or bag with the date and location in the nursery where it was collected.

5. Sort the Waste: Like Harry Potters sorting hat:

  • Set up sorting tables in a well-ventilated area. Ensure you have gloves and a safe space to sort through the rubbish.
  • Begin the sorting process by opening each bag or container and separating the materials into categories. Common categories include paper, cardboard, plastics, glass, metal, organic waste, and non-recyclable waste.
  • Record the weight or volume of each category as you sort. You can use scales or simply put them in a normal bin to assess the amount of waste i.e Half Bin, Quarter Bin, Full Bin.

6. Results, Results Results:

  • Once you've sorted and recorded the waste, calculate the percentage of each type of waste in the total waste stream.
  • Look for patterns in the data, such as which materials are most frequently disposed of, and identify areas where recycling practices can be improved.
  • Analyse any non-recyclable waste that could potentially be reduced through better purchasing practices or alternative/eco-friendly materials.

7. Identify Areas for Improvement: 

Now that you have your results, look for areas of improvements in your Nursery. This could be::

  • Reducing single-use items and replacing them with reusable alternatives.
  • Educating children and staff on proper recycling and waste reduction practices.
  • Implementing a composting program for food waste.

8. Action Plan - Lights, Camera, Action:

  • Create a waste reduction action plan that outlines the specific steps, responsibilities, and timelines for implementing improvements.

9. Raise Awareness:

  • Educate the nursery community, including staff, parents, and children, about the findings and the action plan. Encourage their participation and commitment to waste reduction efforts. This could be in the form of a newsletter or email send out. 

10. Monitor Progress:

  • Regularly monitor waste generation and recycling practices to ensure that the changes are effective. Adjust the action plan as needed.

The first audit will always be the one where you may feel a bit overwhelmed or wondering the reasons for doing it, but, we promise, once you have completed your 1st audit, you will start to spot the patterns/places for improvements and really see the impact of this.

By conducting regular waste audits you are becoming more environmentally responsible as well as showing your children valuable lessons about waste recycling. 

Composting for Nurseries 

Composting could be a fantastic way to introduce recycling food/organic waste into your Nursery. Any organic waste you create cab be used to show children the magic of Composting!

Tips to get your started: 

The Basics: Start with the basics. Explain to the children that composting is a transformation of food scraps and garden waste into soil that helps plants grow big and strong.

Set Up a Composting Area: Create a composting area within your outdoor space. Use a small, child-friendly compost bin or a designated corner where children can easily access it.

What Goes In: Teach the kids about compostable items, like fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, leaves, and small branches. Encourage them to collect these items during activities like snack time or outdoor play.

What Stays Out: Explain what doesn't belong in the compost, such as meat, dairy, and pet waste. Kids should understand that these items can make the compost stinky and attract unwanted critters. 

Composting Routine: Establish a routine for the children to add their compostable to the bin. Make it a daily or weekly task, depending on your nursery schedule.

Observation and Learning: Encourage children to observe the composting process. Show them how the materials change over time, from scraps to dark, crumbly soil. It's like a science experiment!

Art Projects: Get creative by hosting composting into art projects. Children can create compost themed artwork made from natural materials.

Celebrate Composting Milestones: - Celebrate milestones, like when the compost is ready to use in the garden. It's a great opportunity to throw a mini party!

Safety First: - Teach children how to handle composting materials with care, and make sure they wash their hands after participating.

Parental Involvement: - Engage parents by sharing your composting adventures through newsletters or workshops. Encourage them to compost at home too!

Promoting Sustainability & Environmental Education 

Promoting sustainability within your Nursery has a vast amount of positives that comes with it. Some of these sustainable practices may take a bit of time to install or instil into your Nursery, but, in the long term the benefits are endless. 

If you like the look of the below, but are struggling to find the right time to implement them, why not select one that you feel benefits your specific Nursery the most and then go from there.

We know that all Nurseries are different, and the waste you produce in nursery schools will also differ. Find the right procedures and processes that work for you and your business.

Eco-Friendly Curriculum: Look on the WWF website here: https://www.wwf.org.uk/get-involved/schools/resources. They have curriculum on Climate Change and more. Or, visit Kinderly.co.uk as they also provide numerous eco friendly activities to teach for free.

Nature Exploration: Arrange regular outdoor sessions for your children to go and explore nature. Activities like Nature Walks, bug hunts or bird-watching are great ways of peaking your children's curiosity. Give every child a journal to note down what they see. You could also look at making a Nursery Garden if you have the space, then children can plant their own flowers, vegetables or herbs. 

Waste Education: Introduce hands on waste activities. Sorting recycling, collecting rubbish etc. You could set a target for how much waste is collected and try to break it each week. 

Energy Conservation: Have children make energy-saving pledges, such as turning off lights, fans, and computers when not in use. Record these achievements on a wall chart. Or, how about teaching kids about renewable energy sources like solar power through simple experiments. Set up solar-powered toys or small solar panels to demonstrate how the sun can generate electricity.

Water Conservation: Place rain barrels around your setting to collect water & walk round to make sure no taps are left running. 

Waste Free Lunches: Get your children to decorate and personalise their reusable lunch containers or why not set up a sustainable lunch room, where there are reusable cutlery and plates.

Community Engagement: Clean up events, litter picking sessions where parents and children team up and collect all the waste in a childcare setting. 

Storytelling & Books: Make waste management in childcare fun! Create nature themed stories or even ask your children to make their own. 

Green Initiatives: Use your collected rainwater, introduce energy efficient lighting and compost. 

Celebrate Earth Day and Environmental Holidays: Make note of the important dates in your eco-friendly calendar! Create eco themed displays with the children on the specific dates to put up around your preschools. 

Visual Displays: Visual Displays around your nursery are a great way of reminding staff and children on how to reycle, reuse, conserve. You could also ask the children to create some visual displays with you. Always make sure to shout out and praise the positive impacts your staff and children are having on their community and school. Visual Displays around the school showcasing their work is a great way of giving your children positive feedback. 

Eco-Friendly Training & Practices for Nursery Staff 

It is not just the children that can learn a few things....if you are looking for various ways in which to increase the knowledge of your staff, we have made a handy list of a few techniques for you to check out:

People in general learn in different ways, so finding the right balance for you and your staff is crucial. 

  • Training Manuals and Guides: Create Training Manuals and Guides for new starters to follow or for more experienced staff, to gain a little refresher on points within your setting. These could be: Single Use Plastic Handbooks, Welcome Packs, New Rules & Regs & other management practices etc.
  • Visual Materials: Similar to training manuals but these ones are less informative and more interactive. Provide visual materials such as recycling stations and others so that they are always able to have a quick look if not sure of a process or step.
  • Video Tutorials: This is again similar to visual materials, but in video form. Create how to pages on Youtube or on your own company intranet so all members of staff have a portfolio of training and eco friendly methods to learn from. 
  • Hands On Workshops: If any of your trusted employees need a refresher on anything, or, you just want to introduce a new practice into the nursery...hold a hands on workshop. This is where all the staff members get together to practice or refresh their knowledge on a certain topic. This could be anything from Safe Waste Disposal, Recycling techniques etc...
  • Case Studies: We basically mean if you see another Nursery / School using an idea that interests you, STEAL IT. Case Studies are an efficient way of seeing what works and what doesn't. 
  • Guest Speakers: Bring in knowledgeable speakers who work in your industry, or even so, not in your industry. Motivational speakers who are passionate about the planet and mother nature not only gets the children's imaginations running, it may also spark emotion and change into your staff. 
  • Online Resources: There are plenty of different resources out there for you to introduce in your Nursery. 
  • Interactive Quizzes and Games: We know you hardly get time to even sit down, but you could host a lighthearted monthly interactive quiz to keep your employees engaged, This could be say on a Friday evening or at the end of staff meeting. 
  • Environmental Policies & Procedures
  • In-House Training Materials: Create your own In-House Training Material. Building a portfolio of various training methods will make your working and training more efficient for all members of your team. 
  • Training Calendar: Employees always love working towards something and knowing what their end goal is. Organise a training calendar so that your staff aren't feeling overwhelmed with work & training.  A training calendar also helps you keep track of where everyone is up to. 
  • Supportive Tools & Equipment
  • Certifications & Recognition: When your staff are putting in the hard work and hitting those training goals, yes provide certificates but most importantly, recognise this! This could be in the form of a gift, praise in a staff meeting, thank you card. Little bits of recognition go a long way in improving your staff well-being and encouraging them to keep on learning!

Waste Collection Services 

It is as simple as A,B,C!

We offer a flexible weekly, fortnightly or monthly transparent waste solution, that changes with your business, so that you can rest easy knowing that your waste management services are as flexible as your nursery has to be!

We understand the waste management needs of Nurseries...we know that childcare is a non-stop environment, where you don't have time to sit down. The last thing you should have to be doing is spending 2 hours trying to speak to your waste management company to collect stinking bins. 

Here are a few reasons why you should use us for your waste management and disposal:

  • Fully Accredited & Licensed. 
  • 12 months contracts / No Auto-Renewal
  • Dispose of waste correctly! No Landfill! All your rubbish is sent to an Waste to Energy facility to ensure your nursery is as environmentally friendly as ever.
  • Clear waste disposal costs. No Hidden Fees!
  • If you wish to see any of our legal documentation then please email binfo@busybins.co.uk and we will be happy to provide copies of this. Our waste carriers licence number is CB/DU222271 for any online checks you wish to carry out.

Don't just take our word for it though, throughout our 7 years of being in business, we have received over 1000 verified customers reviews who have rated us 4.9 out of 5 on our service. 

To have a peek out our reviews, click here: https://busybins.co.uk/reviews

So come and take part in the service with a smile.

Contact us today at: www.busybins.co.uk


Well, folks, we've reached the end of our adventure through the world of better waste management for Nurseries. From nature explorations to compost capers, we've covered it all with a sprinkle of eco-friendly magic.

We have learned that even the tiniest hands can make a world of difference. So whether it's turning off lights or turning empty boxes into rocket ships, our little eco-heroes can lead the way!

Remember, when it comes to waste, we're all in this together.

Together, we can pave the way for a future where waste is not a problem but a puzzle with solutions waiting to be uncovered, making your nursery setting a happier place for all.

So, let's keep recycling, reusing, and reducing while having a ton of fun along the way.

After all, who says waste management is for grown ups? 

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