Activity Introduction

Quick summary: Students engage in a school waste audit to determine the quantities and makeup of the waste generated at their school. This baseline data is collected to calculate the total waste output of the school. Students investigate landfill, co-mingled recycling, paper and organic waste. Based on this data schools can explore how to reduce their waste.

This lesson can be used when working on the Waste Module of ResourceSmart AuSSI Vic Certification. By completing this lesson you will have completed the following actions:

Waste Checklist Compulsory Actions:

  • A1 – Have you undertaken waste audits at your school?
  • A1 – Has this data been entered as your baseline, and any anomalies explained?

Checklist data goals:

  • To find out how full the landfill and recycling bins/skips are when collected to measure actual waste output (in m3).
  • To find out how much organic waste is processed by school (in m3) per year.

Australian Curriculum Links:

Cross curriculum priorities

Sustainability – OI.5 – World views are formed by experiences at personal, local, national and global levels, and are linked to individual and community actions for sustainability. OI.9 – Sustainable futures result from actions designed to preserve and/or restore the quality and uniqueness of environments. 

General capabilities

Numeracy, Critical and creative thinking

Explicit content description

Mathematics Year 5

  • Pose questions and collect categorical or numerical data by observation or survey (ACMSP118)
  • Construct displays, including column graphs, dot plots and tables, appropriate for data type, with and without the use of digital technologies (ACMSP119)

Science Year 5

  • Scientific knowledge is used to inform personal and community decisions (ACSHE217)
  • Construct and use a range of representations, including tables and graphs, to represent and describe observations, patterns or relationships in data using digital technologies as appropriate (ACSIS090)
  • Communicate ideas, explanations and processes in a variety of ways, including multi-modal texts (ACSIS093)

Mathematics Year 6

  • Solve problems involving the comparison of lengths and areas using appropriate units(ACMMG137)
  • Interpret and compare a range of data displays, including side-by-side column graphs for two categorical variables (ACMSP147) 

Science Year 6

  • With guidance, plan appropriate investigation methods to answer questions or solve problems (ACSIS103)
  • Compare data with predictions and use as evidence in developing explanations (ACSIS221)
  • Communicate ideas, explanations and processes in a variety of ways, including multi-modal texts (ACSIS110)

Syllabus OutcomesST3-6PW, ST3-4WSMA3-10MG, MA3-18SP, MA3-9MG, MA3‑1WM, MA3‑2WM, MA3‑3WM

Connecting lessons: Litter audit – must be completed as a compulsory action.

Resources required: Writing materials, rubber gloves, camera or mobile phone with a camera or tablet device with a camera, access to a computer with a graphing program, map or plan of the school grounds, student worksheets, clip board (if using printed copies of worksheet).

Digital technology opportunities: Digital sharing capabilities.

Keywords: Litter, school, waste, rubbish, organic waste, recyclable waste.

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Teacher Worksheet

Teacher preparation:

Overarching learning goal:

  • Students collect data from a range of sources and calculate the total amount of solid waste produced by a school.
  • Students understand that conducting a waste assessment is an easy and safe way to estimate the total amount of waste produced by a school, the number of bins around the school, the makeup of various types of bins and indications of contamination of recycling and food waste bins.
  • Students learn that waste assessments can be repeated on a yearly basis, helping a school to track any changes. It is especially helpful in providing data that shows a reduction in solid waste following the introduction of a new waste system or education program.

Teacher content information: When we dump rubbish at the tip (landfill) polluting greenhouse gases (methane) are released. This happens when food and green waste rots under mountains of other rubbish. This puts more energy into our atmosphere and is starting to affect our climate.

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Student Worksheet

Thought starter: When you throw something away, where is away?

Activity 1. How much waste does our school produce?

NOTE: You will be calculating the amount of waste produced by your school over the course of one year. In our demonstration calculations we have counted one year as being 52 weeks or 12 months. You will need to work out how many weeks/months your school is open for during the year to get an accurate measurement for your school.

Landfill Rubbish

1. How big is your skip? To measure the volume of the school's skip bin, get a 1 metre ruler or a measuring tape. Measure the length, the height and the depth in metres ( L x H x D = Volume m3 ). If you have more than one landfill skip multiply the volume by the number of bins. Be sure to check that all the skips are the same size and adjust figures accordingly.

2. How often is it collected? Ask the office when your skips are emptied. It is most likely to be every week or fortnight.

3. How full is the skip when it's collected?

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