Activity Introduction

Quick summary: In this lesson, students will apply mathematical skills as they explore recycling practices in schools and reflect on their own recycling processes. They will measure the mass of recyclable materials and calculate approximate totals for the schools, developing skills in both measurement and geometry, and number and algebra.

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 sort recyclables into categories
  • Students will be able to estimate the total consumption of each material within the school.

21st century skills:

CommunicatingCommunity EngagementEthical UnderstandingSocial SkillsProblem SolvingTeam Work

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions: 

Year 4 Mathematics

  • Use scaled instruments to measure and compare lengths, masses, capacities and temperatures (ACMMG084).
  • Develop efficient mental and written strategies and use appropriate digital technologies for multiplication and for division where there is no remainder (ACMNA076).

Syllabus outcomes: MA2-9MG, MA2-11MG, MA2-12MG, MA2‑1WM, MA2‑2WM, MA2‑3WM, MA2‑6NA.

General capabilities: Numeracy, Personal and Social Capability, Ethical Understanding.

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability OI.8.

Relevant parts of Year 4 achievement standards: By the end of Year 4, students choose appropriate strategies for calculations involving multiplication and division. Students use scaled instruments to measure temperatures, lengths, shapes and objects.

Topic: Recycling, Sustainability.

Unit of work: Visy Education – Primary Mathematics.

Time required: 60 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – students will require supervision during the audit activities and will require support during the calculation activities.

Resources required:

  • Student Worksheet (printed, one per student)
  • Calculators (one per student)
  • Note paper and pens or pencils
  • Class bins
  • Five tubs
  • Tub Labels (attach to tubs before starting the lesson)
  • Tongs and/or latex-free gloves (at least one pair between two)
  • Scales (i.e. bathroom scales that bins/tubs can be placed on)
  • Recycling Guidelines poster (print or display).

Keywords: mass, estimate, calculate, sustainable, recycling, green waste, compost, landfill.

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 sort recyclables and waste materials into categories
  • ... be able to estimate the total consumption of each material within the school.

Success Criteria: Students can...

  • ... recall which items can be recycled through their local council (aluminium and tin, paper and cardboard, firm plastics and glass)
  • ... explain why green waste should be separated from landfill
  • ... find the mass of recyclables, green waste, compost and landfill in the classroom
  • ... use the data from their class waste to predict totals for the school.

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

- or - to view worksheets

Student Worksheet

Class Audit

Write down the weight of the bin/tub holding the waste: 

Record the results of the class audit in the table below:

Green Waste
Paper and Cardboard
Other Recyclables

Group Audit

In your group discuss the best way to estimate the following, and record your suggested figures in the space provided. 

Estimate how much compostable material the school would produce in a week: Estimate how much green waste the school would produce in a week:
Estimate how much paper and cardboard the school would produce in a week: Estimate how much of other mixed recyclables the school would produce in a week:
Estimate how much landfill the school would produce in a week:


Talk with your group about the following questions and note down the ideas you discuss in the space provided:

What does the school do with each of these groups of materi

- or - to view worksheets

Leave your Feedback

We appreciate your feedback. Let us know what you like or don't like about this activity:

Sorry. You must be logged in to view this form.