Free K-12 Lessons to Engage Students in Recycling and Waste Topics

23 comprehensive, hands-on lessons designed for grades K-12.

Author: Recycle Rally

Recycle Rally

Recycle Rally is excited to partner with EcoRise to bring you comprehensive, hands-on lessons focused on waste and recycling! These free K-12 waste and recycling lessons will encourage your students to participate in recycling daily by providing the baseline knowledge they need to take that step. They cover a range of topics such as waste sortation, zero waste, the 3 R’s, waste management, and composting. Some of the lessons are designed to inspire students to tackle waste issues in their own communities! There’s never been a better time to engage students in these topics. We hope these lessons support you, no matter where your students are in their recycling and waste journeys.


Each link below directs to a page where you can learn more about that particular lesson. To access all of the lessons, check out the information at the bottom of this page.





  • Bin, Bin, Drop the Trash In! – Your students will defeat the Litter Villain in this fun lesson.
  • Nature’s Recyclers – In this lesson, students create dioramas to show where nature’s recyclers (hint, hint – worms!) live.
  • Something from Nothing – In this lesson, students learn how to reuse their waste to make something new. The 3’Rs are also discussed.


Grades 1-2


  • Making Paper – Your students will learn how paper is made and even make their own paper in this fun, hands-on lesson.
  • Let’s Compost! – In this lesson, students review the types of materials that make good compost and assist in creating a compost pile. Then, they’ll create a poster showing what they’ve learned.
  • Don’t Waste Lunch! – In this lesson, students learn that a simple school lunch can generate a lot of waste. Then, they think about how they can reduce, reuse, and recycle to improve their current waste habits.


Grades 3-4


  • Where Does Our Waste Go? – In this lesson, students learn where waste goes and the impact of certain waste materials on landfills.
  • Building Recycling Bins – In this lesson, students identify types of garbage, learn how to sort it, and then create their very own recycling bins!
  • The 5 R’s – In this lesson, students expand the 3 R’s to the 5 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot, and Reflect. Then, they demonstrate what they’ve learned by working together to create a set of community posters!


Grades 5-6


  • Waste Innovations – In this engaging lesson, students research options to help solve waste management issues in their own community.
  • All About E-Waste – In this lesson, students learn what e-waste is and why it’s a growing problem. Then, they work together to brainstorm a way to build awareness and change within the school community and beyond.
  • Nuclear Waste – In this lesson, students review the pros and cons of nuclear waste. Then they perform a kinesthetic simulation (basically a fun game) to help them viscerally understand the complexities of the issue.


Grades 7-8


  • Zero Waste Campaign – In this lesson, students learn how zero-waste thinking offers hope for the future. Then, they are challenged to put what they’ve learned into practice by implementing a zero-waste initiative at the school.
  • Personal Waste Eco-Audit – In this lesson, students collect their own waste for a day and learn how their waste production compares to the global average.
  • Soil with Soul – In this lesson, students learn how the simple act of composting can help create a sustainable future. Then, they take a microscopic look at a variety of soil samples to identify the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy soils.


Grades 9-10


  • Fundamentals of Waste – The purpose of this lesson is to help students understand why waste management is a critical issue for a sustainable future.
  • The Story of Electronics – In this lesson, students write a phone’s biography and explore concepts like “designed for the dump,” as well as NIMBY attitudes.
  • Plastic Bottle Planter – In this hands-on lesson, students convert plastic bottles into small desktop planters while learning about waste management.
  • Upcycling Competition – In this lesson, students consider the role of consumerism in modern society and how consumer behavior impacts the environment. Then, they are challenged to apply the principles of upcycling to build a product out of waste materials.


Grades 11-12


  • School Waste Eco-Audit – This set of four lessons takes students on an engaging journey of a waste audit. They will collect and analyze data, reflect on its importance, and consider ideas for improving waste management on campus. Following this, they will communicate their recommendations to administrators, parents, students, and others. Finally, they will implement action plans to enact real change.


How to Access the Free K-12 Lessons


  • Click the link “Get Lesson Plans” below.
  • Select “I am a new user,” then enter your email address in the Username field.
  • Enter your full name and check the “I agree” box.
  • Click on “Enroll in Course.”
  • Check your email for a link to set your password.

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