Activity Introduction

Quick summary: Students are challenged to rethink what is meant by the term ‘waste’. They begin by defining waste and recycling, before categorising items as either landfill, recyclable and/or eligible for the ACT Container Deposit Scheme (CDS). They then explore why recycling is important and are invited to consider how waste can be a valuable resource including how some ‘waste’ items can be exchanged for a 10 cent refund through the ACT CDS. Students then communicate messages around rethinking waste.

The ACT Container Deposit Scheme (ACT CDS) was introduced by the ACT Government in 2018 as a litter reduction initiative. Participants collect and return their eligible drink containers at an ACT CDS return point for a 10 cent refund on each. For further information about the ACT CDS, please visit

This lesson plan has been developed by Cool Australia, in collaboration with Exchange for Change, the scheme coordinator for the ACT CDS, as part of a suite of curriculum-linked resources for teachers that support schools’ participation in the scheme and enable teachers to discuss the environmental benefits of the scheme as part of their sustainability lessons.

Learning intentions:

  • Students will encourage their community to rethink their approach to ‘waste’ and recycling.

21st century skills: 

CommunicatingCommunity EngagementCreative ThinkingProblem Solving

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions: 

Year 3 & 4 Design and Technologies:

  • Critique needs or opportunities for designing and explore and test a variety of materials, components, tools and equipment and the techniques needed to produce designed solutions (ACTDEP014)
  • Generate, develop, and communicate design ideas and decisions using appropriate technical terms and graphical representation techniques (ACTDEP015)
  • Select and use materials, components, tools, equipment and techniques and use safe work practices to make designed solutions (ACTDEP016)
  • Evaluate design ideas, processes and solutions based on criteria for success developed with guidance and including care for the environment (ACTDEP017)

Year 4 HASS:

  • The use and management of natural resources and waste, and the different views on how to do this sustainably (ACHASSK090)

Syllabus outcomes: ST2-5WT, GE2-2

General capabilities: Critical and Creative Thinking, Ethical understanding.

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability

Relevant parts of Year 3 & 4 Design and Technology achievement standards: Students create designed solutions for each of the prescribed technologies contexts. They explain needs or opportunities and evaluate ideas and designed solutions against identified criteria for success, including environmental sustainability considerations. They identify the interconnections between components of the environment and between people and the environment. Students recognise the importance of the environment and identify different possible responses to a geographical challenge.

This lesson is part of the wider unit of work ACT CDS School Resources.

Time required: 60 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – Facilitate class discussion and support students in their independent work.

Resources required:

  • A range of waste items that vary in colour, weight, shape and texture. These could include some used paper, some newspaper, a small plastic tub, plastic bottle, a milk carton, a paper bag, and some bottle lids. Make sure all items are clean and sharp edges are covered with masking tape.
  • Device capable of presenting a video to the class
  • Student Worksheet – one copy per student.

Keywords: Waste, resources, reuse, recycle, recycling, materials, hands-on, investigative, ACT container deposit scheme.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.


Teacher Worksheet

Teacher Preparation

Learning intentions: Students will...

  • ... encourage their community to rethink their approach to ‘waste’ and engage with recycling

Success criteria: Students can…

  • … define key terms around waste and recycling
  • … think critically about society’s approach to ‘waste'
  • ... communicate messages around waste, recycling and the ACT CDS to an audience.

Teacher content information:

Please visit the and websites prior to teaching the lesson to research which materials and eligible drink containers are accepted for recycling in the ACT. Check the label for the ‘10c’ symbol to determine whether a container is eligible as part of the ACT CDS. Eligible drink containers are those that are commonly found in the litter stream and are smaller, more portable containers, between 150mL to 3L.

Teaching Sequence

Work through this resource material in the following sequence:

10 minutes - Part A: Waste or Recycling?
20 minute

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Student Worksheet

Rethinking Waste

1. Find a partner and answer the following questions together:

What is waste? 

What is recycling?

What is the ACT Container Deposit Scheme?

2. Which of these containers could be recycled? Explain your beside each image

3. Why is it important to reduce, reuse and recycle our waste?




4. Use this page to brainstorm some ideas about your ‘spokesperson’.

5. Write a brief explanation of the intention behind your work, so that audiences at an art exhibition will understand what you were trying to do.

For example:

“Hi, I’m Herbert. My arms are made from water bottles, and my head is a juice popper. These containers are then recycled into other useful things. Waste doesn’t need to be something you just throw away. Instead we can turn it into someone who makes us smile and who gets us to think about how we can use waste again. And again. And again!”

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