Activity Introduction

Quick summary: Students will collect and analyse data related to the usage of plastic bottles. They will learn about the difference between recyclable and recycled plastic and calculate the different energy costs to manufacture plastic bottles from raw and recycled materials.

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 difference between recycled and recyclable materials
  • Students will know about the environmental effects of using recycled materials
  • Students will be able to analyse the data they collect and use graphs to synthesise findings.

21st century skills:

Critical ThinkingGlobal CitizenshipSocial SkillsProblem Solving

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions:

Year 7 Maths

  • Identify and investigate issues involving numerical data collected from primary and secondary sources (ACMSP169).

Year 8 Maths 

  • Explore the variation of means and proportions of random samples drawn from the same population (ACMSP293).

Year 9 Maths

  • Identify everyday questions and issues involving at least one numerical and at least one categorical variable, and collect data directly and from secondary sources (ACMSP228).

Year 10 Maths

  • Evaluate statistical reports in the media and other places by linking claims to displays, statistics and representative data (ACMSP253).

General capabilities: Numeracy, Critical and creative thinking, Ethical understanding.

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability OI.8.

Relevant parts of Year 7 Mathematics achievement standards: Students identify issues involving the collection of continuous data.

Relevant parts of Year 8 Mathematics achievement standards: Students explain issues related to the collection of data and the effect of outliers on means and medians in that data.

Relevant parts of Year 9 Mathematics achievement standards: Students compare techniques for collecting data from primary and secondary sources.

Relevant parts of Year 10 Mathematics achievement standards: Students describe statistical relationships between two continuous variables. They evaluate statistical reports.

Topic: Recycling, Sustainability.

Unit of work: Visy Education – Secondary Mathematics.

Time required: 70 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Low to medium – the teacher will need to guide students through various pieces of information and stimulus, and assist them to complete a student-guided survey.

Resources required:

Keywords: Area, paper usage, recycling, conversion, large figures.

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 difference between recycled and recyclable materials
  • ... know about the environmental effects of using recycled materials
  • ... be able to analyse the data they collect and use graphs to synthesise findings.

Success criteria: Students can...

  • ... explain the difference between recycled and recyclable plastic
  • ... collect and analyse data related to plastic usage
  • ... make informed decisions regarding their use of plastic and its impact on the environment.

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

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Student Worksheet

Thought Starter: Is it enough to just recycle a plastic bottle?

Part A: Introduction - Recyclable Vs Recycled

1. Your teacher will give you an article about recycling. Read the article and have a think about the difference between ‘recycled’ plastic water bottles, and ‘recyclable’ plastic water bottles

Explain the difference between a ‘recycled’ and a ‘recyclable’ plastic water bottle: 

2. Now have a look at the graph below. This represents the amount of plastic produced on a global scale, in millions of tonnes:

What do you think this value was in 2020?



3. Analyse the figures provided in the quote below:

Can you make the following predictions?

Table 1. Plastic predictions

Amount of plastic that was recycled in 2020, approximately: Amount of recycled plastic that was used to make new plastic bottles, in 2020.
tonnes tonnes

What percentage of all plastic expected to be produced in 2020 could be recycled into new plastic bottles?


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