Global Education

Teacher resources to encourage a global
perspective across the curriculum

Waste matters

Year level: 3-4

Issue: Environment

Country: Australia

Students investigate waste creation and management based on their own experiences and case studies. They develop key understandings about pressures on the environment, ecosystems and people’s health caused by waste, and explore ways of improving waste management to help build a sustainable future.

Plastic debris pollutes waterways.

Plastic debris pollutes waterways.

Interdependence and globalisation, Peace building and conflict resolution, Social justice and human rights, Sustainable futures

Australian Curriculum links

Learning areas


Year 3

Draw connections between personal experiences and the worlds of texts, and share responses with others (ACELT1596)

Year 4

Plan, draft and publish imaginative, informative and persuasive texts containing key information and supporting details for a widening range of audiences, demonstrating increasing control over text structures and language features (ACELY1694)


Year 3

Science knowledge helps people to understand the effect of their actions (ACSHE051)

Year 4

Natural and processed materials have a range of physical properties; these properties can influence their use (ACSSU074)


Year 3

The similarities and differences in individuals’ and groups’ feelings and perceptions about places, and how they influence views about the protection of these places (ACHGK018)

Year 4

The sustainable management of waste from production and consumption (ACHGK025)

General capabilities

  • Literacy
  • Intercultural understanding
  • Personal and social capability
  • Critical and creative thinking
  • Ethical behaviour

Cross-curriculum priorities

  • Sustainability

Activity 1: Our waste

This activity focuses on the kinds of waste people create in their daily lives and highlights the differences between biodegradable and non-biodegradable (or organic and inorganic) waste.

Brainstorm and list the types of waste you create in your home, at school and/or in the community.

Classify the waste into kinds that break down naturally and kinds that don’t.

Investigate and discuss the difference between biodegradable (or organic) and non-biodegradable (inorganic) waste and why this is important. Write your own definitions.

Group the examples of waste listed in your brainstorming into biodegradable and non-biodegradable.

Compare the different amounts of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste you produce with others in your class.


  • How does the amount and type of waste people produce differ? Why might this be so?
  • What other waste might be created in producing the materials and from the services you use each day?
  • What happens to the waste?
  • What might happen if the waste was not dealt with?
  • What issues or problems involving waste do you know about? What do you know about how people can reduce these problems?

Summarise key ideas from your discussion using a Web map.  

Activity 2: Local waste management

This activity explores waste creation and management at a community level, in the present day and in the past.

Brainstorm the types of waste that households create. (Think of things we throw away, wash away through drains and send into the atmosphere.)

Use your local council materials and websites to investigate these questions. Work in groups and share findings as a class.

  • How is waste managed in your community? (household, commercial, school, community)
  • Where does the waste go?
  • How much does it cost?
  • How is the waste collected?
  • How often is it collected?
  • Who collects the waste?
  • Who pays for the service?
  • Does the community have a recycling collection?
  • What materials are collected for recycling?
  • Where do the recyclables go?
  • What happens to hazardous waste such as chemicals, medicine, paint tins and oil?
  • What does the community/council do to reduce waste? (campaigns etc)

Discuss how these answers might differ if:

  • you lived on an island with rocky soil so the rubbish could not be buried
  • the community could not afford to transport the waste to a safe distance from people’s homes
  • it cost more to transport the recyclable materials than what they could be sold for.

Investigate how waste was created and managed in your community in the past. Use libraries, museums and experts. Interview a selection of older people and interested groups. Construct a timeline that shows dates where an event or change has taken place, for example the middens in pre-European Australia, the introduction of plastic bags and milk cartons or changes in attitudes and laws that encourage recycling etc.

Create a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the types of waste and its management in the local community today with the waste of the past.

Activity 3: Australians working for a cleaner world

Through research into particular people and organisations, this activity focuses on the difference people can make by having a commitment to the environment and working for a cleaner world.



Find out information about a particular person or organisation that has worked to make a difference to the cleanliness of the environment. These could include:

Make a poster with information about the person or organisation.

Discuss what you have learned about waste problems and possible solutions by investigating these people and organisations. What action can you take to help achieve a cleaner environment? You might like to view and discuss NDLRN digital curriculum resource M007750 Saving Wasteopia, a short film by primary school students that shows how they are working towards sustainability at their school.

Imagine new ideas for managing waste that might be developed in the future. You might like to view and discuss an innovative invention for turning organic waste into compost. See NDLRN digital curriculum resource R10211 – The New Inventors – Series 1 Episode 8, 2004: Modern alchemy.

Activity 4: Reducing waste – from ideas to action

This activity involves exploring and evaluating a range of strategies for reducing waste, in order to create and implement a waste reduction campaign or action plan.

Brainstorm as many ways of reducing waste as you can think of. The following list might help:

  • improving packaging design
  • using products which reduce the need for packaging
  • composting organic waste
  • living a simpler lifestyle
  • frequent waste awareness campaigns
  • fining people for littering.

Select one of the methods on the list and consider the implications of their particular solution by answering the following questions.

  • What might happen if this solution was acted upon?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages?
  • How would this improve or change the environment?
  • What will it cost in money, time and resources?
  • Who will pay for it?
  • What benefits are there for the community?
  • Is the solution fair to all concerned?
  • What are the short- and long-term benefits?
  • Is it the best use of community money, time and resources?

Present and justify your solution to the class as a brief report or action plan.

Create individual and class action plans to work towards reducing waste to half. Write a personal pledge to ‘live with less waste’.

  • What are the costs and benefits for the environment?
  • What are the costs and benefits for you and your interactions with others?

Create a waste reduction campaign for your school or community. Design logos, graphics and slogans for a range of items that would help to encourage proper waste disposal and promote waste reduction.

Implement your waste reduction campaign.

Evaluate the outcomes for people and for the environment.

Write a short statement about how you could change your future behaviour, and encourage others to change, based on what you have learned.

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Plastic debris pollutes waterways.
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Plastic debris pollutes waterways.