Recycling Lesson Plans

Students can learn about protecting the environment through these recycling lesson plans.

By Lesley Roberts


Recycling Lesson Plans

There are many ways to delve into recycling lesson plans. Teachers can introduce recycling by reading aloud a book by Loreen Leedy called "The Great Trash Bash" for elementary school students. Encouraging a discussion on recycling with older students can serve the same purpose. Most students are aware of recycling and how to practice it, but they remain unaware of the impact the different kinds of things we consider garbage have on the environment. Teachers can also discuss the difference between recycling and reusing.  Recycling means to take a waste product, a used plastic bottle for example, and reduce it back to a raw material (plastic pellets/chips) to make new products, such as new plastic bottles.  Reuse means to use a waste product in its current form for a different purpose.

In order to connect these abstract ideas to everyday life, students can go on a walk in their neighborhood, or near their school, to collect recyclable garbage. Teachers should ensure that students are wearing gloves, and only looking for recyclables. This activity should be prefaced by discussing and identifying trash that is recyclable, such as paper, plastic, and aluminum. If this activity wouldn't work for you, you could bring these items from home for your students to sort, just make sure they are thoroughly cleaned. The discussion should also include whether students assist in recycling at home and how they do this.

After a recycling discussion, older students can then create posters that display pictures, or actual samples of garbage, that is sorted into recyclable groups. Students could even create artwork using recycled materials. Each example should also include an explanation of how these materials would impact the earth if they weren't recycled.

Teachers can get information from the United States Environmental Protection Agency website, which is geared to different age groups and includes age appropriate activities, such as creating a club of elementary school planet protectors. The lessons that follow can assist you in teaching students about recycling.

Recycling Lesson Plans:

Recycling Lesson Plan

Students classify trash and place them in the correct recycling bin. They identify objects that can be made from recycled materials. They discover the importance of recycling and create an object with recyclable materials.


Students recycle something from their homes into something usable. They write a time-order paragraph and give an oral presentation about their project.

Recycling Lesson Plan

Students discuss the meaning of recycling and how recycling can improve our standard of living while fostering respect for the environment in which we live. They make a prototype of a new product to be manufactured from recycled materials.


Students investigate the economic and ecological importance of recycling.

Is It Recyclable?

Students bring five items to school that they would normally throw away and five items they would normally recycle. Expert groups are formed to present information on the recycling of glass, metal, plastic, and organics, such as paper and food waste.

Recycling - A Job Everyone Can Do

Students research recycling efforts that take place in the United States. They play an online game and complete handouts using Internet research.