Activity Introduction

Quick summary: In this lesson, students investigate the environmental impacts of bottled water. They conduct a ‘5 whys’ investigation into some of the reasons why people use bottled water, then watch a video that explores what happens to plastic bottles once they’ve been thrown away. Students then explore the concept of life cycle analysis and work in groups to create a 3D model of a bottled water life cycle. Their aim is to encourage others to work towards closing the recycling loop by purchasing beverage bottles made from recycled plastic.

This activity has been developed in partnership with Visy. For over 70 years Visy has been committed to finding sustainable solutions for Australia’s recyclables and helping to reduce local landfills. Visy collects, receives and sorts paper, cardboard, glass, plastics, steel and aluminium from households, businesses and schools with the purpose of reusing these products in the re-manufacture of new packaging products.

Learning intentions:

  • Students will understand the concept of closing the recycling loop
  • Students will be able to communicate the value of closing the recycling loop to others
  • Students will be able to create a representation of the life cycle of a plastic bottle.

21st century skills: 

CommunicatingCritical ThinkingEthical UnderstandingSocial Skills

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions: 

Year 7 Science

  • Some of Earth’s resources are renewable, including water that cycles through the environment, but others are non-renewable (ACSSU116).
  • People use science understanding and skills in their occupations and these have influenced the development of practices in areas of human activity (ACSHE121).
  • Construct and use a range of representations, including graphs, keys and models to represent and analyse patterns or relationships in data using digital technologies as appropriate (ACSIS129).

Year 8 Science

  • Chemical change involves substances reacting to form new substances (ACSSU225).
  • Scientific knowledge has changed peoples’ understanding of the world and is refined as new evidence becomes available (ACSHE134).
  • Solutions to contemporary issues that are found using science and technology, may impact on other areas of society and may involve ethical considerations (ACSHE135).

Syllabus outcomes: SC4-12ES, SC4-13ES, SC4-7WS, SC4-16CW, ACSHE134, SC4-11PW.

General capabilities: Literacy, Critical and Creative Thinking, Ethical Understanding.

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability.

Relevant parts of Year 7 Science achievement standards: Students analyse how the sustainable use of resources depends on the way they are formed and cycle through Earth systems. Students describe situations where scientific knowledge from different science disciplines and diverse cultures has been used to solve a real-world problem. They communicate their ideas, methods and findings using scientific language and appropriate representations.

Relevant parts of Year 8 Science achievement standards: By the end of Year 8, students compare physical and chemical changes and use the particle model to explain and predict the properties and behaviours of substances. They explain how evidence has led to an improved understanding of a scientific idea and describe situations in which scientists collaborated to generate solutions to contemporary problems. They reflect on implications of these solutions for different groups in society.

Topic: Recycling, Sustainability.

Unit of work: Visy Education – Secondary Science.

Time required: 120 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – teacher will facilitate an innovative design process.

Resources required: 

Keywords: Bottled water, environmental impact, recycled plastic, closing the loop, materials.

The information and statistics included in this document are approximate and have been simplified for educational/illustrative purposes. They should not be relied upon for any other purpose.

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...

  • … understand the concept of closing the recycling loop
  • … be able to communicate the value of closing the recycling loop to others
  • … be able to create a representation of the life cycle of a plastic bottle.

Success criteria: Students can... 

  • … create a model to represent and compare the life cycles of plastic bottles made from non-recycled materials with bottles made from recycled materials
  • … share the value of closing the recycling loop with their peers.

Teacher content information: What do you do with the things you no longer want or need, such as the packaging from the food you buy or bottles you drink from? Many of us have grown up thinking of this as 'waste', as something we need to just get rid of. But what if we think of these materials as a resource for creating new and useful products? What if we can re-imagine how we think about and use these materials?

Thinking of waste items as the resources re

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Student Worksheet

Thought Starter: What really happens to the plastic you throw away?

1. Watch the following video (or your teacher will screen it for the class)

What really happens to the plastic you throw away – Emma Bryce (

Once you have finished watching the video, reflect on your reactions:

What did you find out?

What was surprising?

What questions do you still have?

2. Read the 'The Role Of Recycled Plastics In Closing The Loop' article, then reflect on your response by responding to the same three prompts:

What did you find out?

What was surprising?

What questions do you still have?

3. There are many stages in the life cycle of plastic bottles where resources are used and waste is created. In this task, you will work in groups to investigate the resources required to produce plastic bottles, how this process impacts our environment, and why closing the recycling loop is so important. You will then use this information to clearly illustrate to

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