You are here: Home > Education > Teacher Resources > Environmental Activities & Projects > Environmental Lessons > Recycling
Have a Question or Comment? Let us know!


Recycling is a business from collecting, cleaning, distributing and creating new products. Currently, 1.5 million tons of trash is diverted from landfills in out county by recycling and reducing waste. Most cities have recycling programs; call your city service department for guidelines. How do we improve our recycling rates? Rates improve by encouraging more people to recycle wherever they are such as at school or work. Instill recycling as a good habit will make lifelong recyclers.

Why should people recycle? Recycling saves land and natural resources. Also, products made with recyclable material use less energy in the manufacturing process. Recycling is a green or sustainable activity.

Recycling Classroom Activities

Grade K-3: Treasures from Trash

Objective: Students learn an alternative to throwing away trash by making it into art.

Materials: Clean trash such as milk and egg cartons, plastic containers and lids, cardboard tubes, string, scrap paper, disposable items, etc... Paint paintbrushes, markers, glue, tape, newspaper, paper mache paste, scrap fabric and scale.

: Reuse

  1. Students should bring 3-5 trash items that have been rinsed to share with the class.
  2. Discuss that each person throws away about 5 pounds of trash per day. How can people limit what they throw away? Reduce, reuse and recycle. One specific way is to create art work or a useful item from trash.
  3. Make a trash creature or search recycled crafts on the internet. Make a sample.  For ideas, look at summer programs or Don't Throw That Out.
  4. Have students do a trashy craft and explain what trash items were used.
Time: one class period

Conclusion: Have them weigh their projects to determine the amount of trash that they prevented from being disposed of in a landfill.

Extension: Have students write a poem or a creative story about their new creation. Have class share their creations and display them.

Grade 4-6: When they’re gone, they’re gone

Objective: Students will learn about the availability of natural resources by participating in a international competition for them.

Materials: 400 red craft beads, 104 blue beads, 31 pink, 12 green, 1 orange, 1 yellow, 1 purple, 1 clear; 5-7 plastic cups, writing materials

Vocabulary: conservation, natural resources, nonrenewable resources, renewable resources, recycling, solid waste.

  1. Discuss consumption of natural resources and explain that waste is produced and landfilled from manufacturing products. Explain the difference between renewable and nonrenewable natural resources, and have students brainstorm resources that fall in each category.
  2. Explain the activity. The colored beads represent different nonrenewable resources. The total number of beads represents the amount of minerals that exist in the world; however, it does not represent the ease of extraction or the resource’s potential availability.
  3. Reproduce the following as a transparency, handout or on the board.
    Natural Resource Activity Sheet
    Color Number of Beads Finite Resource 1987 Estimate of Global Reserves
    Red 400 Iron in ore 98.0 Billion ST*
    Blue 104 Bauxite (aluminum ore) 23.2 Billion MT**
    Pink 31 Chromium 7.5 Billion ST
    Green 12 Copper 566.0 Million MT
    Orange 1 Lead 142.0 Million MT
    Yellow 1 Tin 4.3 Million MT
    Purple 1 Silver 10.8 Billion Troy Ounces
    Clear 1 Platinum 2.1 Billion Troy Ounces
    *ST: Short Ton of 2,000 pounds
    **MT: Metric Ton of 2,200 pounds
  4. Hide the beads throughout the classroom or gym in easy and difficult places.
  5. Divide the students into teams representing countries. The size of the group will vary depending upon that country’s exploration ability. A group of 6 represents the USA and Russia, 4 – Europe, 3 - Japan, 2 - South Africa and 1 - Malaysia, etc... Each team gets a plastic cup for their bead resources.
  6. Give teams two minutes to search for resources. After the exploration, have the students record the number and color of beads in their cup.
  7. Repeat the search for one minute. Again have the students record their search results.
  8. On the board or overhead, record natural resources and their amounts for all the countries.
Time: one to two class periods

  • Discuss the difficulties the group experienced at finding resources. Competition should have been more intense during the second exploration because the teams were competing for fewer resources. The teams with more people should have more natural resources.
  • Discuss real life examples of countries competing for resources such as oil or gold.
  • Discuss how natural resources are eventually thrown away in the form of products, which people discard. These natural resources end up in landfills never to be used again.
  • Questions for students: How can the students extend the life of nonrenewable resources? What are the advantages of extending the life of resources?
Extension: Have students research and report on methods or products that conserve nonrenewable resources or that use of renewable resources.

Grade 7-12 Market Recycling

For this activity, you may want to team with the art or industrial technology departments.

Objective: Students will investigate environmental symbols and design a recycling logo for posters, banners or t-shirts to promote recycling and/or Earth Day.

Materials: internet sites, magazines, book of logos, silk-screening items or computer graphic software and iron-on transfer ribbon. The group will need to decide on black and white, two colored or four color process.

Vocabulary: Recycling, public awareness

  1. Have students work in pairs to identify and research 15-25 different environmental logos and slogans from products, public awareness campaigns and advertisements in newspapers, catalogues, magazines, t.v. and web sites. The research should include the meaning of the design in relation to the mission of the organization or company.
  2. Students will share five logos with the class.
  3. A group of students or each student will design a logo and slogan.
  4. Discuss the manufacturing process of printing, and explain how the students will produce their logos.
  5. Split the students into groups, and have them write down a process order for the production line for their logo. Each student in the group will play a role in production.
  6. Print
  • Each group should evaluate their technique and process and share reasons for any changes with the class.
  • Sell and/or wear t-shirts or display signs, posters and banners in school for Earth Day (April 22nd) or American Recycles Day (November 15 th).
Time: two or three class periods, homework

Extension: Have the students determine what to do with their waste products from the logo production, and could they have reused or recycled waste materials? Have them research environmental sound processes such as using organic inks in printing.

Web Resources