The Green Team

Download the Video Teaching Guide PDF/Word

MAIN TOPIC OF VIDEO:  School recycling programs

Play Pic



  1. What do you see being thrown away in the garbage cans at school?  For example, compare what goes into your classroom garbage can to what goes into the cafeteria garbage can.
  2. What do you, personally, throw in the garbage can at school?
  3. Where does the trash go after you throw it away?
  4. What goes into your garbage can at home?


  1. Why doesn’t Dustin separate his trash?
  2. What is a benefit of recycling?
  3. What does it mean to be compostable?
  4. What trash has to go into the landfill?
  5. What should you do with any unconsumed liquids?


  1. What could you change about your school waste program?
  2. Draw or look at a map of your school.  Where would you put: recycling bins, compost bins, trash bins, liquid bins?
  3. How many of each type of bin would you place in the locations you chose?
  4. Create an informative sign that explains to the other students in your school how to separate out recyclable trash from compost and landfill trash.
  5. Take an inventory of your school lunch—what waste are you generating and how can you reduce that amount?


Answers to Discussion Questions


  1. Answers will vary depending on student experience.  Classroom waste can include things such as paper, broken pens/pencils, paper towels, empty glue containers.  Lunch room waste contains more food than classroom waste and more wet containers.
  2.  Answers will vary.  Wrappers from granola bars, sandwich bags, chip bags, juice containers, etc.
  3.  Roughly 65.5% of our waste currently goes into a landfill.  From the EPA websiteIn 2012, Americans generated about 251 million tons of trash and recycled and composted almost 87 million tons of this material, equivalent to a 34.5 percent recycling rate. On average, we recycled and composted 1.51 pounds of our individual waste generation of 4.38 pounds per person per day.

The graph below gives information about the US recycling rates of a few selected products.


4.  Answers will vary.  Packaging from food, dinner scraps, cardboard boxes, fast food containers, etc.


  1. He believes that all trash is the same and/or he doesn’t know how to sort it.
  2. Items that are recycled can be made into new products.  Recycling helps minimize the amount of new material that has to be created or mined from the earth.  For example, recycling aluminum cans reduces the need to mine for new aluminum.
  3. Composting can be done on any biodegradable product, like food scraps and paper.  Composting allows soil microbes and/or worms to break down waste naturally.  The time it takes to compost (or break down) materials completely can vary depending on the environmental conditions of the compost.  See this additional Green Ninja video on worm bins for more information.
  4. The trash that has to go into a landfill will vary depending on location.  For example, the City of San Jose, CA has an online guide to recycling here.  Some items that cannot be recycled or composted include:  soiled paper, padded envelopes, take-out food containers, diapers, pet waste, packing peanuts, carpet, hangers, pillows and more.
  5. Unconsumed liquids can be thrown into a liquid bin or regular trash bin.  The container can then either be recycled or composted, depending on the type of container.



  1. Answers will vary.  Some schools might already have established programs, while others might not.  In general, students might want to implement the same type of program as seen in the video, with containers for recycling, composting and liquids in addition to the standard trash cans that go to the landfill.  Maybe students want to begin with recycling and build a program from there.
  2. Answers will vary.  Students might want to start out by putting all types of bins in the cafeteria or eating area, since those places get a lot of compostable and recyclable trash.  Students might take a walking tour of the school in order to generate their map and the locations of the pre-existing trash cans/recycling/compost bins.
  3. Answers will vary.  Composting might only be around eating areas, while recycling bins might go into every classroom.
  4. Answers will vary according to student interest–see example below

TGT-Compost only

5.  Answers will vary.  Students might notice that they have a lot of wrappers and plastic bags.  They can ask their parents to buy foods in bulk and use reusable containers made out of plastic, glass or fabric.  They might start to use a reusable water bottle. 



Here is a large classroom activity guide to teaching about waste called Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot.

Introduce students to the concept of a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA).  From the American Chemical Society curricular unit on LCALCA investigates every part of the production, use and final disposition of a product, including collection and processing of raw materials, energy used in production and use of the product, and transportation and disposal or recycling costs.

LCA is an assessment that is useful when considering the benefits of recycling because it can help students see the amount of energy and effort that is put into the creation of a brand new product and how much energy can be saved through recycling.

The curricular unit linked above has many useful resources and graphics on Life Cycle Analysis, including this one pertaining to aluminum cans:

Life Cycle

Here is a lesson plan for a life cycle analysis from the website, complete with student handout and ITSE and NGSS standard correlations.


Ask students to form groups and create a school recycling proposal.  Each group will present their proposal to the class when they are finished.



There are many online resources to help you get a recycling program started at your school.  A few are here:

From The Carroll County Government in Maryland

From the Virginia Recycling Association

From the Los Angeles Department of Public Works



Credit: This teacher resource has been adapted from content originally developed by Lee Pruett.

Copyright ©2015 Green Ninja. All Rights Reserved.