Lesson Focus

Students will learn about the challenges waste management centers face and different methods they use to sort recycling. In small teams, students will brainstorm and design a system to sort a mixed-up recycling bin. Teams will share their designs, and the class will vote on ideas they want to move forward with. The class will then work to build and test a recycling sorter.


Full Lesson Plan
Student Handouts

Age Levels:

8 – 14


Introduce students to:

  • Issues surrounding single-stream recycling and how materials recovery facilities (MRFs) work.
  • How they can support effective recycling in their community.
  • Creative technology being used to clean up trash, litter, and pollution.

Anticipated Learner Outcomes

As a result of this activity, students will be able to:

  • Plan, design, and build a recycling sorting system.
  • Work effectively in a team.
  • Evaluate peer designs.
  • Understand the issues and challenges involved in single-stream recycling


  • Teacher Resource Documents (attached)
  • Student Resource Sheet (attached)
  • Student Worksheets (attached)

Alignment to Curriculum Frameworks

Curriculum alignment sheet is included in PDF.

Lesson Plan Toolkit Presentation