Environmental Sustainability: Recycling

Lesson Title: Environmental Sustainability: Recycling
Academic Standards: HS-ESS-3-2; HS-ESS-3-3; HS-ESS-3-4
Content Creator: Mrs. Wendy Martin
Level: High School
Duration: 35-45 min
  /  Environmental Sustainability: Recycling


  • Define recycling.
  • Explain the benefits of recycling.
  • Look at some objects found in a kitchen setting and be able determine which can be recycled and which can't.
  • Learn why aluminum is such a useful product.
  • Understand the mining and refining of bauxite into aluminum.
  • Understand the drawbacks of the mining process.
  • Understand how readily available aluminum is.
  • See how efficient the recycling of aluminum is.
  • Take a field trip through a recycling center and watch as aluminum is sorted.


The monetary and energy investment needed in the extraction, transport, and refining of raw materials is high. Recycling offers a very viable option. Recycling turns waste into a reusable, useful product. It can cut the energy investment by half while also conserving natural resources. This lesson will start with a discussion of reasons to recycle. Students will be in a kitchen setting. They will handle some everyday items used in a kitchen and decide which items are recyclable and which are not. Discussion of why is included. The second half of this lesson focuses on aluminum recycling. Students will learn about the process of bauxite mining and its pros and cons. The lesson will conclude with a virtual field trip to a recycling center where students will follow aluminum cans as they are sent through the sorting and shipping process.


  1. Start with a thought question. "What do a soda can and a pickup truck have in common?" "What do a plastic bottle and a T shirt have in common?"
  2. Define recycling.
  3. Explain the 5 benefits of recycling.
  4. Do Group Activity: What can and what can't be recycled. Have students pick up objects from around the kitchen and place them on the Yes table or No table. Work in groups.
  5. Go through the Yes and No list with them and give explanation.
  6. Focus on aluminum. Why it is such a versatile material and examples of how its used.
  7. Brainstorm places where it is found/used.
  8. Discuss the two sources of aluminum: Primary Production and Secondary Production.
  9. Primary production is the mining and refining of bauxite ore.
  10. Explain the pros and cons.
  11. Play video that shows the process of bauxite mining.
  12. Secondary production is the recycling of aluminum.
  13. Explain the benefits of aluminum recycling from a money an energetic standpoint.
  14. Show video of an aluminum sheet being formed into a can.
  15. End class with a field trip to a recycling center and follow an aluminum can through this process,

Suggested Ancillary Support

How a soda can is made (I showed the first 1:45) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyumWUg_MXM   Bauxite mining https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsYbmp95Knk  


2D objects are suggestions for the Recycling group activity. Choose items tailored to your presentation.