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 recyclable waste.

This lesson has been developed in partnership with Visy. For over 60 years Visy has been striving for sustainability, reducing the amount of waste going to landfill by collecting recyclable materials and recycling them into new paper and packaging products. Click here to find out more about Visy and their innovative work in recovering and transforming recyclable materials into new products to preserve our earth’s precious resources.

Learning intentions:

  • Students will be able to classify waste material into recyclable and non-recyclable categories.
  • Students will know the forms of energy that separate materials at a Materials Recovery Facility.
  • Students will be able to work in a team.
  • Students will understand how to use energy to separate soft plastic from recyclable waste.

21st century skills: 

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.

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: Waste, Sustainability.

Unit of work: Bright Sparks – 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, mixed waste, 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 waste material into recyclable and non-recyclable categories.
  • Students will know the forms of energy that separate materials at a Material Recovery Facility.
  • Students will be able to work in a team.
  • Students will understand how to use the force of wind to separate soft plastic from mixed waste.

Success criteria: 

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

Teacher content information: Almost everything we do in our daily lives creates waste. We can describe waste as something we no longer want or need. The food and drinks we consume, the clothes and cosmetics we wear, the transport we take, the stuff we buy, the energy we use in our hom

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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, chemical and grav

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