Here you’ll find:

Teaching resources including:

  • units of work
  • lesson plans
  • support materials
  • curriculum connections on recycling, avoiding food waste
  • waste auditing
  • ways to reduce waste at school.

Student activities including self-guided investigations and activities and more.

Teaching resources

The following resources are for use with students to help them understand:

  • what waste, recycling and waste avoidance are
  • how waste impacts on the environment
  • measures they can take to reduce waste at home and school.


Cool Australia - Primary & secondary waste units
Stages 1 - 3 | Integrated, Inquiry Australian Curriculum aligned lesson plans | Cool Australia

Food Smart Schools  -  Food waste lesson plans and teaching resources 
Stages 1 - 3 | Love Food Hate Waste NSW EPA

FEAST - Hands on activities and teaching resources exploring food waste
Stages 1 - 3 | Information, activities | OzHarvest

Waste as Art - Developed with the support of the NSW Environmental Trust, Waste as Art provides a valuable and practical toolkit that explores waste reduction and other environmental issues through visual arts. This resource provides the information, resources and inspiration that schools and teachers need to plan, develop and implement an engaging and rewarding Waste as Art project.

Wipe Out Waste learning resources: Teaching activities: Compost in a bottle experiment, Uneaten food waste, Bigger buys vs single serve multipack, Tale of two lunchboxes. 
Stages 1 - 4 | Science and Technology, Science | Lesson plans | Green Industries SA

Beeswax wraps: A challenge-based learning task that has the aim of reducing schoolyard and community waste, integrating digital technologies. 
Stage 3 | Digital Technologies, Mathematics | Learning task | Digital Technologies Hub

Bury your trash experiment and What will biodegrade: Investigate what types of materials biodegrade in the soil
Stage 2 | Science | Teach Engineering  Investigate what types of materials biodegrade in the soil

Growing up Greener children's books and education resources
Stages ES1 - 3 | Cross KLAs | Books, Posters, Information  | Kellie Bollard

Litter free schools - A toolkit for schools to reduce single use plastics.
Taronga Conservation Society

Waste-free lunch challenge A toolkit for pre-school and early primary school teachers to understand the benefits and meet the challenge of a waste-free lunch day or week.
Stages ES1 - 2  | Schools recycle right Planet Ark

Primary and Secondary

Cool Australia - Primary & secondary waste units.
Stages 1 - 5 | Integrated, Inquiry Australian Curriculum aligned lesson plans | Cool Australia

Junior Landcare Learning Centre - learning activities aligned to the Australian curriculum to encourage waste minimisation and awareness.
All ages

Take 3 for the Sea - Project based learning teaching units, exploring the impact of litter and waste on oceans and waterways.
Stages 3-4 | project based learning units | Take 3 for the Sea & Cool Australia

Plastics Challenge comprehensive STEM resource that investigate the properties of plastics and  find solutions to problems caused by plastic waste globally.
Stages 3 - 4 | Videos, Information, Classroom activities | Resources for Rethinking 

NetWaste - a voluntary regional waste group; projects include Waste to Art.
Stages 1 - 5 | Cross KLAs | Information, projects | 28 NSW local councils

Question and Answer Quiz Posters from Planet Ark. Seven recycling question posters, with corresponding answer posters.
Stages 3 - 5 | Cross KLAs | Teaching resource | Planet Ark

Our human footprint - information on the impact humans are having on the environment.
Stages 3 - 5 | Cross KLAs | Information | World Wildlife Fund

Clean Up Australia - curriculum resources focusing on refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle
Stages 3- 4 | Science and Technology, Science, HSIE | Units of work, Student activities | Cleanup Australia

Compost and worm tutorials - a step-by-step guide to composting and wormfarming.
Stages 3- 4 | Cross KLAs | Information | Randwick City, Woollahra and Waverley Councils with NSW Environmental Trust

National Pollutant Inventory - learn about pollution emissions, includes online curriculum resources for teachers.
Stages 3- 4 | Science and Technology, Science, HSIE, Creative Arts | Units of work | Australian Government


Waste Not - free learning activities on recycling.
Stages 4 - 5 | English, Science, Geography, Art | Videos, Information, Classroom activities | Total Environment Centre

Shining a light on sustainability - explains the concept of sustainability highlighting waste.
Stages 4 - 5 | Cross KLAs | Video | Australian Research Institute for Environment and Sustainability (Aries)

Love Food, hate waste - information on the environmental impacts of food waste particularly useful for students in Food Technology 7-10.
Stages 4 - 5 | Food Technology | Information | NSW EPA

Student activities

The variety of resources listed below focus on waste and are provided for teachers to incorporate into a class room program. They can be investigated by students independently or be used as part of a group program within the class.

Student activities

Cool Australia's Digital Toolbox - Find video clips, documentaries, images, articles, stories and news for each major topic, including water.

Interactive resources

Muster Kids Zone - visit this Mobile Muster site to access Muster games, downloads, information on running a muster, a calculator and you can send in your great recycling projects.

Waste Not - discover the history of waste on an interactive timeline.

Genus Earth - An awards program, delivered through a gamified app, blending online and real-world activity to develop and reward sustainable behaviour in children

Online games - Recycle Round Up, National Geographic

Recycle Right Quiz - test your recycling knowledge by taking this quiz created for National Recycling Week by Planet Ark.

Australian Greenhouse Calculator

Video resources

War on Waste landmark Australian documentary series on the impact and solutions to our material waste problems in Australia. 

Story of Stuff movies: Story of Stuff, released in 2007, is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. Other movies include Story of Bottled Water, Story of Electronics, Story of Microfibres and Lets Ban the Bead. 

The Secret Life of Things - a set of short animated videos illustrating hidden environmental impacts of waste.
Stages 3 - 5 | Cross KLAs | Video | Life Pscycle-ology

Recycling whole buildings - Recycling whole buildings saves a huge amount of energy, prevents unnecessary carbon dioxide emissions and addresses landfill issues. From ABC Catalyst and targets secondary science students (6 mins 4 secs).

The problem with plastic - A thought-provoking video from PlasticPollutionCoalition.org (5:24 mins) on the detrimental effects of plastic.

 A story of a fleecy top - An example of student produced video on how you can make a difference by reducing, reusing or recycling.


National Pollutant Inventory - This Australian Government site has a 'For students' section which provides fact sheets, pollution maps, a true/false pollution quiz and more.

Bottled water - information about bottled water, why we buy, the environmental impacts and what we can do.

Battery recycling - information about the different types of batteries, where they can be recycled and what you can do to be more eco-friendly.

Visy recycling - information on innovative and sustainable packaging, paper products and recycling.

NSW State of Environment Report - NSW specific waste and recycling data 

  • Nude Food Day is a fantastic opportunity to teach children about how their actions can impact the environment and their health. The event can be as big or small as your school desires. Visit the website for a number of activity suggestions that will help you build the day into something that is right for your school.
  • Clean Up Australia Every Day - You don't have to wait until March each year to help keep Australia clean.
  • National Recycling Week and the Schools Recycle Right Challenge. In partnership with Planet Ark, Cool Australia have prepared a range of activities that aim to raise awareness around the benefits of using recycled products. 
  • Take 3 for the Sea
  • Garage Sale Trail program takes place in November. Schools can get involved by hosting a secondhand market, car boot sale or white elephant stall on their school grounds.
  • Plastic Alarm film screening - consider hosting a screening of this local film. The 22 minute documentary film (produced by film maker Karin Ecker) features 12 year old Arlian 'Plastic Free Boy' Ecker speaking with other children and scientists about the problems of, and solutions to, plastic pollution. The film has educated thousands of students from preschool to high school in Australia and overseas and can be used as a fundraising opportunity with 50% of proceeds being used to improve on waste management at the school. Licensing fees apply.
Return and Earn

Return and Earn logoSustainable Schools NSW is a proud partner of Return and Earn, the largest litter reduction initiative ever introduced in NSW.

Return and Earn can provide a great way for students and the school community to get involved in recycling, reducing litter, and raising money for their school.

There are several ways your school can get involved:

1. Donate refunds to your school -  Encourage your school community to collect eligible drink containers at home and take them to a return point for a refund. The refund can then be donated to your school.

2. Become a Donation Partner - As a school you may be able to become a Donation Partner and be featured on your local Reverse Vending Machine. As a Donation Partner, you can receive donated refunds from people returning eligible containers. To find out more about your schools eligibility, download the Return and Earn application to become a local donation partner

3. Organise a collection drive - Raise money by collecting donated eligible containers from your school community that you can Return and Earn at a return point for a refund. If your school is interested in organising a collection drive or exploring fundraising options, you can get started by checking out how to fund raise with Return and Earn and by downloading the Schools toolkit which includes posters, newsletters and more.

4. Hear what others are doing - you can read some great case studies of how other schools are making the most of the Return and Earn program in their school to get some inspiration!

5. Engage students in learning - Download the free curriculum resources for Early Learning through to Stage 5, and explore practical ways for teachers to engage students on sustainability and recycling and support their school’s participation in the Return and Earn container deposit scheme

Waste Audits

Guide to Conducting a Waste Audit: This document guides you through the processes of a waste audit: making the case, preparing, conducting, recording, analysis and developing a school waste action plan. Includes NSW Syllabus links. 
Stage 2 - 5  | NSW Department of Education & Training

AuSSI Waste Audit: Lower Primary, Upper Primary, Secondary Students engage in a school waste audit to determine the quantities and makeup of the waste generated at their school, then based on data students explore how to reduce their waste.
Stage 1 - 4  |  Cool Australia

A Simple Guide to Conducting a Waste Audit: The waste audit looks at the different types of waste generated in the school, where it comes from and how it can be reduced.
Stage 2 - 5  | Rumbalara Environmental Education Centre 

Waste Audit Toolkit: an operating practices manual that is intended to guide the development and implementation of waste audits in schools. Curriculum links to WA schools, but relevant activities and methods, Waste audit video also available (7 mins 44 secs).
WA Waste Authority 

School Waste & Recycling Audit: This booklet outlines 5 key steps for a schools waste audit. 

School Waste Management Calculator: An excel document that assists schools to identify and record different categories of school waste. Part of a suite of education resources from regional Netwaste

DIY Audit Kit: Kit includes resources that explain the audit procedures including the tasks that occur before, during and after the day of the audit. Designed for designed to be used by sites with less than 100 students, or for use by individual classes.
Wipe Out Waste Green Industries South Australia


Terara Public School students decided to wage their own war on waste. After completing their own waste audit they are committing to reducing our two biggest waste offenders: soft plastics and food waste.
Video (3 mins 24 secs).

Erskine Park High School waste audit video (3 mins 24 secs)

Composting & Worm farming

Around 30% of schools waste consists of organic waste – i.e. food scraps and garden waste which could be composted.

Below are just a few online resources that explain the benefits and processes of composting and worm farming. 

Composting, It's Easy
Kimbriki Eco House & Garden | pdf file

Scraps to Soil factsheet

Worms, worms, worms
Kimbriki Eco House & Garden | pdf file

Nature's recyclers, Lesson plan and PPT

How to manage (organic) waste at school 
Hornsby Council  | pdf file

Rodent control ideas for compost bins 
Kimbriki Eco House & Garden | pdf file

Composting at School 
Waste Wise Schools WA | pdf file

A guide to starting a composting program in your school 
This is created by a group in the USA, it has some useful ideas for planning a system, creating a team and requirements. 
Green Mountain Farm to School | pdf file

Costa's guide to composting for schools
Planet Ark YouTube clip 

If you are looking for practical support to introduce or reinvigorate your compost at school, try reaching out to your local council, regional waste group, your school waste contract supplier (NSW government school supplier list) or a local Environmental Education Centre to see if they are able to support you with infrastructure or education programs.