Introducing Recycling
Shades Cahaba

In this lesson, students explore the environmental issue of excess garbage and how recycling can help reduce the amounts of garbage in landfills.

Students will:
  • discuss the problem of excess garbage in the environment and explore the issue of recycling.
  • identify types of paper that can be recycled and where recycled items are to be put in the classroom and school.
  • write a persuasive paper on the importance of recycling.
  • Trash bin and paper
  • White board
  • Books on the environment and recycling
  • Paper and pencil
1. Preparation:  Before beginning the lesson, fill a trash can to overflowing with trash items and place it in the usual spot. Set out books on recycling and the environment in classroom reading center.

2. Begin by asking students if they know what happens to garbage after they put it in the garbage can. Write their thoughts on the white board. Explain that garbage goes to a garbage dump (landfill) and that once one landfill gets full room for another one must be found. Next, ask students to imagine quietly what it would be like if your city or town ran out of room for garbage. Read them the following make-believe “news story” and then have students share or write about their reactions to the news story.


In a news conference yesterday, the Mayor announced that the garbage dumps have started to overflow. Despite the mayor's efforts to find a suitable location for a new dump, the garbage crisis has not been resolved. An emergency meeting has been called for this evening to discuss final plans for dumping the city's garbage.

During the news conference, the mayor said, “Our best plan so far is to eliminate school playgrounds. If we dumped the garbage in the space currently occupied by all school monkey bars and fields we should be able to resolve the problem for another year or two. And hey, the kids will still have their gyms to play in.” Parents and students began protesting the proposed action but stopped when they realized that the next best plan was to dump garbage in everyone's backyards.

3. Ask students, “What can you do today to keep the news story from coming true?” Write their ideas on the board. Introduce students to the concept of recycling. Explain the efforts your school and community are making to recycle. Talk about the types of paper that can be recycled (construction paper, typing paper, paper with staples, spiral notebooks, Scholastic order forms, etc.). Show students where they put items to be recycled. Remind the students of the importance of keeping paper to be recycled separate from the trash.

4. In conclusion, have students write a persuasive essay describing why recycling is important.  Before starting, have students brainstorm reasons why recycling is important. Then have students write 3 or 4 questions they still need answered regarding recycling. Allow students to research answers to these questions using the materials you have gathered, library resources, computers, and interviews. Students then write 3 to 4 facts about recycling.  Students should then choose their best reasons to support why others should believe their point of view. After this brainstorming and research, students should be prepared to write a persuasive essay on the importance of recycling.
  • teacher observations during discussions
  • student persuasive essays