Teaching overview

Learning points

  • At Christmas, the amount of rubbish we throw away increases.
  • Waste buried in landfill sites has a negative impact on the environment.
  • Recycling reduces the amount of rubbish that is sent to landfill.

Curriculum keywords

  • Recycling
  • Materials
  • Rubbish

Spark a discussion

  • What does the word “environment” mean? How do human activities impact the environment?
  • What different types of rubbish do we throw away? Where does it all go?
  • How much wrapping paper do you think the UK throws away at Christmas? Where does all that paper come from?
  • Why is it important to look after the environment?
  • How does recycling help the environment?
  • How could we encourage people to recycle more? Are there ways we could reduce the amount of rubbish made in the classroom?
  • What else can we do with our rubbish to help the environment?
  • Why do we need to separate recycling into different groups? What do you think happens to the different materials next?
  • How else can we look after the environment and preserve its resources?

Multimedia toolbox

Recycling symbol

Show this visual before the film to spark a discussion about recycling, as a way of gauging existing knowledge of the subject.

Christmas reduce, reuse, recycle

Show this visual after the film and ask the children to suggest ways that these items of rubbish could be reduced, reused or recycled.

Plastic bottle tree

Show this visual after the film to spark a discussion about ways of making the holidays more environmentally friendly.

Recycling centre loop

Play this loop after the film and discuss ways of sorting recycling (e.g. sieves to separate by size or magnets to remove metal).

Human impacts loop

Play this loop after the film and ask the children to suggest possible causes and effects for each example, as well as potential solutions.

The process of converting used materials into new products that can be used again.


Show this visual after the film to reinforce key scientific language.


Paper recycling

CREATE your own recycled paper and use it to make Christmas cards. You could send one to the school janitor(s) to say thank you for dealing with the school’s rubbish all year round.

Open detailed instructions

Other activity ideas

  • CLASSIFY objects around the classroom based on whether or not they can be recycled.
  • COMPOSE a song based on “The 12 Days of Christmas”, listing a variety of different recyclable materials.
  • DESIGN an everyday object using recycled materials, thinking carefully about the properties of the materials.
  • RESEARCH how long it takes for different types of rubbish to break down in landfill // local recycling rules and regulations, and compare with those in other parts of the country/world.
  • CONSTRUCT a “green” gift or tree decoration using recycled materials.
Print this sheet

Paper recycling

Duration: 40 minutes


  • 1 sheet of shredded used paper, e.g. old newspaper or copier paper
  • Bowl of water (enough to cover the shredded paper)
  • Food colouring (optional)
  • 15 ml PVA glue
  • Large container/tray
  • Spoon or whisk
  • Wooden frame (this could be an old picture frame, or straight sticks stuck together using a glue gun)
  • Mesh, e.g. tights, netting, gauze or metal mesh (to cover one side of the frame)
  • Absorbent cloths
  • Plastic bag
  • A heavy weight or rolling pin

Key Learning:

This activity encourages the students to think more about the process of recycling, by getting them to make their own recycled paper.

Activity preparation: If possible, soak the shredded paper overnight. This will help to break up the fibres, making it easier to recycle.

Activity instructions:

  1. Tell the students that they are going to make and decorate Christmas cards – but instead of using new, fresh sheets of paper, they’re going to recycle some old, used paper.
  2. Stir the soaked pulp thoroughly with a spoon or whisk.
  3. Add the PVA glue and stir again. You can also stir in a small amount of food colouring if you wish. This will help disguise any ink that was previously printed on the paper.
  4. Place the meshed frame over the large container/tray. Spread the pulp over the mesh, inside the frame. Gently press the pulp to remove some of the water, and then lift the mesh onto an absorbent cloth to remove more of the water.
  5. Carefully turn the pulp out onto another absorbent cloth. Cover with a plastic bag and use a heavy weight or rolling pin to squeeze more of the water from the sheet.
  6. Leave the sheet to dry overnight.
  7. Use the recycled paper to make Christmas cards. The students might want to send one to the school janitor(s) to say thank you for dealing with the school’s rubbish all year round.

Optional extras

  • Ask the groups to investigate whether some types of paper are easier to recycle than others. They could compare newspaper, copier paper and glossy magazine paper.
  • Ask the students to write a short summary paragraph explaining the importance of recycling, and suggesting ways they can reduce the amount of rubbish thrown away during the school holidays. You could also ask the students to research how paper recycling is done on an industrial scale.

Background information

  • Pollution is the introduction of harmful substances to the environment. Household rubbish is one of the major causes of land pollution.
  • A lot of what we throw away ends up in landfill sites, where it is buried in the ground. Rubbish gradually decomposes, but some materials can take hundreds or even thousands of years to break down completely, resulting in long-term damage to the environment.
  • We can reduce our impact on the environment by reducing, reusing and recycling as much as possible. This reduces the amount of rubbish that’s sent to landfill, and reduces demand for Earth’s natural resources.
  • About 80% of household rubbish is recyclable, including glass, metal, cardboard and many types of plastic. Food waste can be made into compost.


The process of converting used materials into new products that can be used again.
All the conditions and surroundings that affect living things, their survival, growth and evolution. The environment includes the land, water and atmosphere (climate) that any living thing encounters.
A site for, or the process of disposing of waste material by burying it in the ground. Landfill sites are often lined with plastic to protect the land underneath and covered with soil to hide waste materials.
Natural resource
Something that is found in nature and used by humans. Natural resources that do not renew themselves quickly can be exhausted by human use and are considered non-renewable.
The presence of artificial products or energy in a natural environment that causes adverse changes. Pollution can occur in the air, in water and on land.

Explore our resources

Complete your lesson with teaching resources on natural and synthetic materials from Tigtag.

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Discover free online CPD for primary science from Reach Out CPD.

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