Human Use of Resources—Classroom Recycling

Summary: What kind of waste is generated in the classroom, and how much of what is in the garbage bin could be placed in the recycle bin instead? Students inventory their garbage, monitor their recycling output, and learn local recycling policy to ensure they are recycling all that they can.

Concepts to teach: Recycling, audit, measuring weight, histogram

Goals: Students gain an understanding of the garbage and recycling output from their classroom. After learning about their classroom habits and the local recycling policies, students challenge themselves to reduce their garbage waste and increase the proportion of waste that can go in the recycle bin.

S3.1, S3.3S.1, S3.3S.2, S3.4D.2
S4.1, S4.3S.1, S4.3S.2, S4.4D.3
S5.3S.1, S5.3S.2

Specific Objectives:

  1. Conduct an inquiry to determine the types and amount of garbage and/or recycling generated in the classroom.
  2. Identify which classroom waste products can be recycled, and which cannot.

Activity Links and Resources:

  • Trash Pie lesson plan from Kids’ Science Challenge: KSC Lesson Plans—This lesson plan helps students investigate and classroom garbage output
  • Classroom Recycling–K-6 classrooms in Newport use a hand-held fish scale to weigh and chart their classroom recycling bags once a week over 2 months, and report their findings at the annual Newport Science Fair.
  • Recycle it, or not? – Recycling policies vary by region. Contact your local sanitation department to learn the details of your community’s recycling policy. Invite a recycling expert to the classroom to answer student questions.
  • Observe trucks removing waste and recycling from school dumpsters and bins. Follow up with a field trip to the local landfill, transfer station, or recycling center.


  • Students create a posters describing what should be done with various types of unwanted plastics in their school and/or community.
  • Share findings from recycling inquiry studies with peers and adults:
    • through a school exhibition such as Science Fair
    • bring the information to other classrooms or to adults in their workplace through a presentation or poster