Activity Introduction

Quick summary: Students design a survey of school waste bins (rubbish, recycling and composting) that estimates volumes of waste before and after lunch and estimate the percentage of contamination. They calculate the area the bins service by breaking up the area into squares and triangles.  

This lesson has been developed as part of the Schools Recycle Right Challenge for Planet Ark’s National Recycling Week. Register your lesson or other activities so they can be counted towards the national achievement and to receive other free support materials.


Learning intentions:

  • Students calculate volumes and areas and use percentages to describe an issue. 

21st century skills: 

CommunicatingCommunity EngagementCritical ThinkingSocial SkillsTeam Work              

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Year 8 Mathematics:

  • Choose appropriate units of measurement for area and volume and convert from one unit to another (ACMMG195)
  • Solve problems involving the use of percentages, including percentage increases and decreases, with and without digital technologies (ACMNA187)

Year level: 8

Time needed: 50 to 70 min broken up before and after lunch. 

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium to high – Students will need to help estimate the volumes in whatever shaped bins your school has.

Resources needed: Metre rulers, measuring tapes or trundle wheels, tablet or clipboard and paper to record data.

Digital technology opportunities: Enter data into digital worksheet.

Extension: Students create a YouTube/Vimeo clip outlining their finding.

There’s an app for that: aluminate – Alcoa Recycling’s Aluminate app gives you all the tools you’ll need to keep track of all the aluminium cans you’ve recycled.

Assumed prior learning: Aspects of the waste stream including rubbish, recycling and composting.

Keywords: Contamination, estimation, recycle, waste, rubbish, compost.  

These Planet Ark resources were developed by Cool Australia with funding from the Alcoa Foundation. 

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 goals: Calculate volumes and areas then use percentages to describe how the waste system is operating. 

Teacher content information: Waste is an issue that needs to be managed in every school. It takes time and requires money and resources. When a school’s waste system isn’t working well there can be many negative outcomes, including health issues. 

All schools will have a comprehensive system of rubbish bins in and around the school. They will have a system for removing some if not all of the litter. There will be different levels of recycling in schools. Some schools also collect compostable food waste as well which are composted on site. 

Contamination can be a significant issue in the recycling stream. As an example, some broken harden glass or Pyrex in a batch of glass will destroy an entire batch of recycled glass. It is normally picked up before the crushed glass gets as far as the furnace. Also many items that can be recycled are pla

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Student Worksheet

Thought starters: How long would it take for all the bins to overflow if they were not regularly emptied?

Step 1: Wasting at our school 

Upper Primary School Students Managing Waste - Video 4

1. Recall from the video some ways the students managed waste?

2. Define the types of waste that was shown in the video.

3. How might the bins in the video become contaminated? 

4. What goes into each of the school’s bins?

Rubbish bin

Normal recycling bin

Paper recycling bin

Compost bucket



















 Step 2: Designing our survey

What must you do to remain safe while surveying bins:

Your teacher will designate a bin, a group of bins in one location or several bins in different locations that you and your group will survey.

You need to

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