Activity Introduction

Quick summary: In this lesson, students will explore how forms of energy are incorporated into the process of separating recyclable and non-recyclable materials. They will watch two short clips that explain energy then apply their new understanding of energy by identifying the different forms used in a Materials Recovery Facility. Students will work in small groups to design their own way to use a form of energy to separate soft plastics from other recyclable 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 be able to classify materials into recyclable and non-recyclable categories
  • Students will know the forms of energy that separate materials at a Materials Recovery Facility
  • Students will understand how to use energy to separate soft plastic from other recyclable materials.

21st century skills: 

CommunicatingCreative ThinkingCritical ThinkingFlexibilityGlobal CitizenshipInitiativeProblem FindingProblem SolvingTeam Work

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions: 

Year 8 Science

  • Energy appears in different forms, including movement (kinetic energy), heat and potential energy, and energy transformations and transfers cause change within systems (ACSSU155).
  • Scientific knowledge has changed peoples’ understanding of the world and is refined as new evidence becomes available (ACSHE119).
  • Solutions to contemporary issues that are found using science and technology, may impact on other areas of society and may involve ethical considerations (ACSHE120).
  • People use science understanding and skills in their occupations and these have influenced the development of practices in areas of human activity (ACSHE121).
  • Communicate ideas, findings and evidence based solutions to problems using scientific language, and representations, using digital technologies as appropriate (ACSIS133).

Syllabus outcomes: SC4-10PW, SC4-15LW, SC4-11PW, SC4-13ES, SC4-9WS.

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

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability OI.8.

Relevant parts of Year 8 Science achievement standards: Students identify different forms of energy and describe how energy transfers and transformations cause change in simple systems. Students identify questions that can be investigated scientifically. They use appropriate language and representations to communicate science ideas, methods and findings in a range of text types.

Topic: Recycling, Sustainability.

Unit of work: Visy Education – Secondary Science.

Time required: 120 mins.

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

Resources required: 

  • Student Worksheets (one copy per student)
  • Device capable of presenting a video to the class
  • Tools/materials to be incorporated into students’ soft plastic removal systems
  • A range of different recyclable materials (listed in Part C of the Teacher Worksheet in more detail).

Keywords: Recycling, materials, resources, kinetic energy, potential energy.

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...

  • … be able to classify material into recyclable and non-recyclable categories
  • … know the forms of energy that separate materials at a Material Recovery Facility
  • … understand how to use the force of wind to separate soft plastic from mixed materials.

Success criteria: Students can...

  • … classify material into recyclable and non-recyclable categories
  • … identify the different types of energy involved in separating mixed materials
  • … work in a team to plan and design a processing machine that separates soft plastic from mixed waste using wind energy.

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-ima

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Student Worksheet

Thought starter: Energy is the power drawn from physical or chemical resources. Amongst other things, it provides light and heat, and works machines.

1. Join into pairs and complete the ‘Think-Pair-Share’ visible thinking routine in response to the question: 'Why should we recycle?'


2. Watch the following clip (your teacher will screen it):

What is Energy? Flame Challenge WINNER 2017 (

3. Complete the ‘Connect-Extend-Challenge’ visible thinking routine, then share what you noted with a partner.


4. Extend your exploration into energy by watching the following clip:

What is Energy? (

Energy is the ability to do work. There are two forms of energy: Kinetic and Potential. Kinetic energy is an energy type that moves (movement, electrical, sound, light, wind and heat). Potential Energy is a stored energy (elastic, ch

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