Where does all our rubbish go? Understanding waste.

In short...

Themes: understanding what happens to waste; recycling; caring for the planet.

Summary: in the UK each person creates about 400kg of waste every year. Some of that waste can be recycled, but much of it goes to landfill which is bad for the environment. Each of us can help reduce waste going to landfill by ensuring we recycle as much waste as possible.

Resources: the framework to download / print (pdf) and an image of plastic waste being processed.

The video

Every person in the UK produces about 400kg of domestic waste each year - equivalent to the weight of a grand piano! Waste that cannot be recycled goes to landfill - but landfill is clearly bad for the environment. Waste that can be recycled is processed in special plants. In the video a group of teenagers visit a recycling plant to find out about the work that goes on there. The plastic, glass and paper leaving the plant can be turned into new containers, bottles and paper products.

Each of us has a role to play in reducing the amount of waste that goes to landfill by recycling as much as possible.

Duration: 3' 57"

End of speech: '...and protect the environment.'

Video questions

  • How much waste does each person in the UK produce each year? (400kg)
  • What happens to waste that cannot be recycled? (It goes to landfill)
  • Why is landfill bad for the environment? (The reasons given in the video are: they take up a lot of space, they may contain toxic chemicals, they give off harmful gases. You may have other reasons also.)
  • What jobs do the teenagers do at the recycling plant? (First - separating the recycling into categories: cardboard, plastic, mixed metals, paper. Finally - picking the last remnants of plastic from the cardboard recycling.)
  • What new things can be made from the recycled waste? (Glass - new bottles, etc; metal - tins, etc; Plastic - new plastic bottles and containers, etc; Paper - new paper)

Key links

Assembly framework (pdf)
Image: processing plastic waste

Suggested framework

1. Entry music A song about the environment...or the instrumental version of 'All things bright and beautiful' (see 'Related links').

2. Introduction 'Every day we all produce a lot of waste: wrappers for food and sweets...empty packaging...things that we no longer want. What happens to all that waste when we throw it away? Today we'll be trying to understand waste better by thinking about where all the waste we produce goes...and what effect this has on the environment. We're going to start by watching a short video...'

3. The video Play the video. The duration is 3' 57" and the final words are: '...and protect the environment.'

4. After the video Use the 'Video questions' (right) to help pupils recall the details of the video: 1. How much waste does each person in the UK produce each year? 2. What happens to waste that cannot be recycled? 3. Why is landfill bad for the environment? 4. What jobs did the teenagers do at the recycling plant? 5. What new things can be made from the recycled waste?

5. Time to talk '400kg of waste produced every year by each and everyone one of us - the equivalent of a grand piano! What a lot of rubbish that is! Turn to the person next to you and tell them about the type of waste you collect at home and the different bins that you use.' Allow time. 'Why do you think it's right that we recycle? Tell the person next to you.' Allow time and then invite some responses.

6. Opportunity to sing An opportunity to sing your chosen song. Suggestions from BBC collections below.

7. Opportunity to reflect Focus your reflection on the theme of sustainability, protecting the environment and thinking about our waste more carefully. 'Think about the different types of rubbish you create - at home...at school...elsewhere. Do you always try to recycle it? Do you always use the correct recycling bins...at home and at school? If we all try to think carefully about not being wasteful and trying to recycle the waste that we do produce...we can all play a part in protecting our precious environment. What things could you do today to make a positive difference for our planet..?'

8. Opportunity for prayer Begin with your usual form of address ('Dear God', 'Lord Jesus', 'Let us pray...' etc) and: 'We want to thank you for our environment and the world we live in. Help us to think more carefully about the waste that we produce. Encourage us to recycle and take care of our environment for the future. Amen.'

Suggested songs

All things bright and beautiful (vocal)

All things bright and beautiful - backing track

Chain of love - Vocal