Recycling: Key stage 2

Schools and Education > Recycling: Key stage 2

An introduction to the topic of recycling for KS2 / primary level pupils.

The following lesson plan will introduce the topic of recycling to primary (Key Stage 2) level pupils. It supports a number of topics within the NI Curriculum and the Primary School Curriculum in the Republic of Ireland, including aspects of The World Around Us Area of Learning (NI Curriculum) and the Environmental Awareness and Care Strand (R.O.I. Primary Curriculum).

  • This lesson links to the Bryson Recycling video case study in the right hand column of the page.
  • The lesson is designed to be used in conjunction with the recycling information sheet and activity sheet, both of which can be downloaded below.
  • Words in bold are ‘keywords’ which may need to be defined for pupils.
  • There is a link to an interactive quiz which will test what the pupils have learned about recycling during the lesson.
  • At the end of the lesson are a number of suggestions for follow-up activities on recycling.

Download the lesson plan as a PDF here

Download the recycling information sheet here

Download the recycling activity sheet here

Lesson Plan


  • Pupils will be aware that household rubbish goes to a landfill site.
  • Pupils will understand that landfill sites can be harmful to our environment.
  • Pupils will be familiar with the Reduce Reuse Recycle message.
  • Pupils will be able to distinguish between items which can and cannot be recycled.
  • Pupils will be aware of what happens to recyclable materials after they are collected.
  • Pupils will be familiar with the sorting process for recyclable items.
  • Pupils will learn about the environmental benefits of recycling.


Introduce the lesson by bringing in a bin full of (clean) rubbish, including some recyclable items, and emptying it out in the middle of the classroom. Then ask the class if they would like to work in a classroom full of rubbish. Ask where they think the rubbish should go (into the bin). Then find out if the pupils know what happens to rubbish after it is put into the bin. Where does it go? What happens to it? Explain that when the rubbish is collected it is taken to a landfill site where it is buried underground. These landfill sites are getting so full up with all our rubbish that soon there will be nowhere left to put it. Ask the pupils what they think a landfill site would be like (smelly!). Tell them that this is because the rubbish is starting to break down and release gases which can be harmful for our environment.
Now ask the class if they know how we could throw less rubbish away. Using items from the pile of rubbish as examples, explain how we can reduce the amount of rubbish by using less packaging, reuse things like yogurt pots instead of throwing them away and recycle many materials like paper, glass and aluminium. Ask pupils to work in groups to sort out the rubbish into three piles – material that can be reduced, reused or recycled.

Lesson Development

Take a class poll of how many pupils recycle their rubbish at home. Ask if any of them use a recycling bin or a kerbside recycling box. Read through the recycling information sheet with the class. Then explain that they are going to find out what happens to the material in a household recycling bin once it is collected. Show the video on Bryson Recycling by clicking on the image on the right hand side of the page. After watching the video, ask the pupils to complete the recycling activity sheet.


Recap on the lesson and tell the children that the next time they put something into the recycling bin to think about where it is going. Encourage the pupils to recycle at home and to tell their parents about the importance of recycling.

Ask the pupils to test their knowledge of recycling by taking the quiz in the right hand column.

Follow up Activities

  • Pupils take the interactive quiz on recycling.
  • Pupils watch the Wilson’s Yard video case study in the Recycling : KS3 section.
  • Pupils work in groups to produce a powerpoint presentation on the benefits of recycling. The class decide on the best presentation and this is shown to the rest of the school in assembly.
  • Pupils carry out a lunchbox survey to see if unnecessary packaging is being used.
  • Pupils organise a no waste lunch day, where everyone tries to bring in a lunch which will produce no waste/ as little waste as possible.
  • Pupils set up a recycling scheme in the school to collect paper, food waste, aluminium cans, etc.