Recycling introduces students to the concept of reusing materials to help improve the environment. Students will be able to define the term and explain why it is important. They will also identify common things that people recycle, such as glass, paper, and cardboard.

There are a couple suggestions listed in the “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page that you can add to your lesson if you have time or want to spend more time on the subject. One suggestion is to have students further research methods of recycling for different materials. You could also introduce them to the symbols associated with recycling packaging.

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What our Recycling lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Recycling explores the concept of reusing certain materials in order to improve the quality of the environment. Students will discover the different kinds of materials that they can recycle. They will learn several steps to follow to recycle effectively and be able to explain why recycling is important. This lesson is for students in 2nd grade and 3rd grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. In addition to the handouts, you will need to supply recyclable materials, glue or tape, string, ribbon, and scissors.

You will also need to prepare several aspects of the lesson ahead of time. As you prepare, gather an assortment of materials made of paper or cardboard, plastic, and aluminum. These could include paper plates, empty plastic containers or soda cans, and so on. You will basically want to collect clean trash that people would likely throw away. If you want, you could also include glass items. There should be enough items for each pair of students to create something during the activity portion of the lesson. Each pair of students can have different materials to work with, but you need to ensure they all have about the same amount.

Options for Lesson

There are a few suggestions in the “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page that you could incorporate into the lesson plan if you want to. If you teach older students, one idea is to divide them into groups and have them further research methods of recycling each kind of material using the internet or other sources. You could also take this time to introduce students to the recycling symbols that they would find on various packaging. Another idea is to explain and discuss the concept of composting to reduce waste. One more option is to take the opportunity during the lesson to discuss the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle.

Teacher Notes

The paragraph on the teacher notes page provides an extra bit of information regarding the lesson material. It suggestion focusing on the benefits of recycling and we recycle various common items. You can use the lines on this page to write down any last-minute ideas about the lesson before presenting it to your students.


What Is Recycling?

The Recycling lesson plan contains two pages of content. The first page describes what recycling is and some of the materials people can reuse, like bottles and paper. Whether at home or at school, many students may already be encouraged to recycle things like bottles, paper, and other waste products. However, they may not fully understand what recycling is or what it means.

Recycling means taking materials and waste that people have already used and turning it into new, useful products. One reason people choose to recycle is that the process of turning used things into new things reduces the amount of materials necessary to create a brand new product all over again.

For example, most of the paper we use comes from trees. But it is possible to recycle old paper to make new paper. By doing so, we don’t need as many trees to make paper, and the process actually uses less energy. In addition, it helps control the amount of pollution in both the air and the water.

Steps for Recycling

The three steps necessary to recycle properly are collect, sort, and process. First, a person must collect any items they want to recycle. Many communities require that residents collect and recycle materials in large bins or cans. Waste collectors who routinely pick up trash and other waste products also regularly pick up the recyclables.

Next, people have to sort through all the different materials. The most common materials are paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum. Each category of products must remain separate from the others. This is because they have to undergo different processing methods.

The third step is processing. A recycling plant has to process materials in different ways depending on what they are made of. For example, it would process a bag of aluminum cans differently than it would a collection of cardboard boxes. Some of these processes take longer than others.

Processes of Recycling

The lesson provides a list of examples of certain products and how to recycle them. Students will first learn how recycling plants process paper products such as newspapers, cardboard, and books. First, a machine chops them up into tiny pieces. Workers then add water to create pulp. Then they clean the pulp to remove any inks. After they add certain chemicals and bleach the pulp white, they can make new paper.

For plastic materials like drink bottles and plastic bags, the plant workers first have to divide the products by type and grind it all into flakes or chips. Similar to paper, they wash and clean the plastic. Next, they melt it down and form it into pellets, which manufacturers can use in a variety of ways.

Glass products undergo a similar process as plastic in some ways. The workers first have to remove any plastic or metal caps that might be on the glass materials. After cleaning, crushing into tiny pieces, and melting the glass, they send it to manufacturers who add other substances. Those manufacturers heat up the product again to the point of liquifying the glass.

Finally, students learn how to recycle aluminum materials. A magnet separates various types of cans. Next, machines wash, crush, and condense the aluminum into smaller portions. A hot furnace removes any labeling and melts the materials, making it easy to pour into bars and later flatten into aluminum sheets.


The Recycling lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. Each one will help solidify students’ grasp of the lesson material and help them demonstrate their comprehension. The guidelines on the classroom procedure page describe when to hand out each worksheet.


For the activity, students will work with a partner to create something using materials you provide them. Once they come up with a design, they will need to decide who does which tasks. When everyone finishes their creations, they can share with the class what they made. At the bottom of worksheet, students will answer the question of what they did with the materials they used to create their pieces—recycling!


The practice worksheet lists 12 questions or statements. Students will circle the correct word from the choices for each question to complete the sentence or answer the question.


The homework assignment simply requires students to color the different pictures on the two worksheets. They can cut out the pieces and put them on a poster if they want to.

Worksheet Answer Keys

The last page of the document is an answer key for the practice worksheet. It provides all the answers in red to make it easy to compare to students’ responses. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits this page. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep this page as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


2nd Grade, 3rd Grade


Science, Video

State Educational Standards

LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.1.1–2, 5, LB.ELA-Literacy.SL.1.1.A LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.1 LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.4 LB.ELA-Literacy.SL.2.1.A LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.1, 3–4, LB.ELA-Literacy.SL.3.1.D

Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.

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This resource provides essential information about recycling that is age-appropriate. The activities are fun and informative.

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I loved this resource for my students. It really helps with the subject of recycling. Love it!