Activity Introduction

Quick summary: In this lesson, students will explore the topic of recycling within their classroom. Through the topic they will practise the core mathematical skills of counting, sorting and classifying and then apply their findings to reflect on and develop their own recycling habits.

This activity has been developed in partnership with Visy. For over 70 years Visy has been committed to finding sustainable solutions for Australia and New Zealand’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 that paper, cardboard, plastic, glass, aluminium and steel can be recycled
  • Students will able to sort materials into groups.

21st century skills: 

CommunicatingCommunity EngagementEthical UnderstandingGlobal CitizenshipLeadershipTeam Work

Curriculum Mapping

To view our Australian Curriculum alignment click here

To view our NZ Curriculum alignment click here

Topic: Recycling, Sustainability.

Unit of work: Visy Education – Primary Mathematics.

Time required: 50 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: High – explicit modelling, demonstration and monitoring of student activities required.

Resources required:

  • Student Worksheet (printed, one per student) 
  • Device capable of presenting a video to the class
  • Types of Bins Display
  • Classroom bins
  • Recycling Guidelines poster – Australian version (printed, one per each group of three)
  • Recycling Guidelines poster – New Zealand version (printed, one per each group of three)
  • Examples of recyclable materials for students to sort (one collection for each group of three students), e.g. old food boxes, milk cartons, empty cans, used paper etc (ensure all items that will be sorted by students are clean and free from cracks or sharp edges so that they are safe for them to handle)
  • Six buckets/tubs for each type of recycling (label each bin with the recycling category – see Recycling Guidelines poster)
  • One pair of tongs.

Keywords: Recycle, recycling, paper, glass, plastic, aluminium, steel, sustainable, reuse, environment, landfill.

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 that paper, cardboard, plastic, glass, aluminium and steel can be recycled
  • ... will able to sort materials into groups.

Success criteria: Students can...

  • ... recall five main recycling categories (paper and cardboard, steel, aluminium, plastic and glass).
  • ... group items into recycling categories.

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 required for creating new products is a great way to shift our thinking about what we should do with these materials. Recycling is key to this thinki

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Student Worksheet

Thought Starter: When we throw anything away it must go somewhere.


When we put items in our bins, where do they go?


Sorting Recyclables

Draw the items that you sorted into each category. Then write the number of items you placed in each group.


How many did you find?


How many did you find?


How many did you find?


How many did you find?


How many did you find?


How many did you find?

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