Activity Introduction

Quick summary: In this activity students weigh the different types of waste that are left over from their lunches and snacks over the course of a week. At the end of each day, students are asked to weigh their waste and record the results. At the end of the week, students add up the amounts of waste and analyse the results, making suggestions on how lunchbox waste can be reduced.

Learning goals:

  • Students learn that leftover food waste and packaging makes up a large part of the solid waste produced in any school classroom.
  • Students understand that much of this waste can be recycled, added to a compost heap/worm farm or fed to the chooks/rabbits.

Australian Curriculum content description:

Year 3 Mathematics

  • Recognise and explain the connection between addition and subtraction (ACMNA054)
  • Measure, order and compare objects using familiar metric units of length, mass and capacity (ACMMG061)

Year 3 Science

  • Safely use appropriate materials, tools or equipment to make and record observations, using formal measurements and digital technologies as appropriate (ACSIS055)
  • Compare results with predictions, suggesting possible reasons for findings (ACSIS215)

Year 4 Mathematics

  • Use scaled instruments to measure and compare lengths, masses, capacities and temperatures (ACMMG084)

Year 4 Science

  • Use a range of methods including tables and simple column graphs to represent data and to identify patterns and trends (ACSIS068)
  • Compare results with predictions, suggesting possible reasons for findings (ACSIS216)

Year 4 Geography

  • The use and management of natural resources and waste, and the different views on how to do this sustainably (ACHASSK090)

Syllabus outcomesGE2-3ST2-4WSMA2-11MG, MA2-12MG, MA2-9MG, MA2‑1WM, MA2‑2WM, MA2‑3WM, MA2‑5NA.

Topic: Solid waste

Time required: This activity is intended to be carried out over the course of a week. It requires  15-30 mins at the end of each day for weighing of collected waste, and further time at the end of the experiment for closing discussion and reflection activities.

Level of teacher scaffolding: High – gather equipment, teach content and manage practical exercise.

Resources required: Scales, five buckets, rubber gloves.

Digital learning opportunities:

Homework and extension opportunities: This activity includes opportunities for homework and extension.

Key words: Waste, food, scraps, lunchbox, recycling, weight.

Safety: Students who weigh the buckets of food and empty the contents to other containers should wear gloves. The buckets should be rinsed thoroughly.


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:

Overarching learning goal: The aim of this activity is to demonstrate to students the amount of waste that is produced from school lunch boxes and to consider ways to reduce this waste. Students weigh the different types of waste that are left over from their lunches and snacks each day over the course of a week. They are asked to record the results for each day and analyse the final results at the end of the week, making suggestions on how to reduce this waste. Finally, students are asked to organise a school-wide Zero Lunchbox Leftovers Day.

Teacher content information: Waste associated with food is a huge problem. In fact the third-largest component of generated waste by weight. School lunchboxes contain all different types of waste, from uneaten food (such as bread crusts), to scraps (such as banana skins or apple cores), to food packaging (such as plastic wrap and bags, drink bottles and cartons). Some of these can be reused, others can be recycled, and othe

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Student Worksheet

How much waste do the lunchboxes in your class create?

In this activity you'll be weighing the amount of food waste created by your class over a whole week. You'll be sorting the waste into five categories, and will be weighing each category at the end of the day and adding up how much waste you collect for each category at the end of the week.

The five categories are:

  1. Fruit and vegetable scraps (can be added to a compost bin, worm farm or fed to the chooks).
  2. Other food (e.g., sandwiches, meat, cheese, biscuits, cake, pizza, pies).
  3. Plastic drink bottles that can be recycled (not the ones that you refill each day).
  4. Clean paper and cardboard that can be recycled (e.g., bags, boxes or wrappers).
  5. Other things that cannot be recycled (e.g., dirty paper, drink boxes, plastic wrappers, plastic wrap and plastic bags).


Estimating the amount of waste

How much waste do you think your class will create for each of the five categories over the course of the week? Use the table

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