Sustainability and plastics

Home learning focus

Learn about sustainability, plastics and recycling.

This lesson includes:

  • one animation about sustainability and plastics

  • one short film of young people answering the big questions on plastics

  • one short film about sustainability at school

  • three activities to build knowledge


What is recycling?

When something is recycled it is reused or turned into something else. Materials such as glass, metal and paper are quite easy to recycle and certain types of plastic are too.

Objects that aren’t recycled, such as things that go in the rubbish, are taken to landfill sites. These are places where rubbish gets buried and left to rot away and biodegrade.

A plastic bag can take hundreds of years to decompose! Watch this animation with Sue Venir to discover more about sustainability and recycling.

Learn about sustainability and plastics with Sue Venir.

Single-use plastics

Some plastic objects are only used once then thrown away. These are called single-use plastics and include things such as plastic bags, bottles, straws and crisp packets. These objects cannot be recycled and can take hundreds of years to biodegrade. It is not sustainable to keep on using them - and if we do, we could permanently harm our environment.

Plastic is also harming animals and wildlife in rivers, lakes and oceans - they can get tangled up in plastic objects or can even eat them. However, by recycling, reducing the packaging we use and reusing things such as bags and bottles, hopefully together we can all help save our planet.

Landfill site: waste disposal is a big problem around the world.

Landfill site: waste disposal is a big problem around the world.

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How many plastic bottles are used in the UK every year? Watch this short film of young people answering this question and more on plastic pollution.

Find out how many plastics bottles are used in the UK every year.

Stow Primary School is on a mission to stop using single-use plastics. Watch this short film from the L.A.B Scotland to find out more.

Find out how Stow Primary school is on a mission to become sustainable.


Here are a few activities to help you remember what you've learnt about sustainability and plastics.

Activity 1


How much have you learnt about sustainability and plastics?

Have a go at this four question multiple choice quiz to find out.

Activity 2

Sustainability presentation

Imagine you are giving a presentation on everything you have learnt about sustainability. What would you say? Download the activity sheet below and have a go at planning the presentation.

This resource is from Britannica Digital Learning

Sustainability and plastics activity sheet

Activity 3

Take part in the Plastics Challenge

This new challenge lets pupils aged 8-14 develop solutions to the problems caused by plastic waste globally, including:

  • practical science investigations and enquiry based learning
  • designing and making products from waste plastic

These resources are from Practical Action.

Click on the photo below for the plastics challenge.

Take part in the Plastics Challenge

Where next?

Blue Planet: Live lesson

Guided by CBBC's Naomi Wilkinson and expert wildlife biologist Lizzie Daly, we explore what constitutes a healthy ecosystem and discuss the threats to our oceans such as plastics and overfishing.

BBC Teach: How to explain climate change to children

CBBC Newsround: What is the problem with plastic?

There's more to learn

Have a look at these other resources around the BBC and the web.

Bitesize Daily lessons
KS2 Geography
Bitesize games
7 - 11 Geography
Plastic pollution - resource pack
Natural and artificial materials