Waste & Recycling Investigation

Waste & Recycling Investigation

Waste & Recycling Investigation (Activities)   Free Add to cart

Our fast-paced society is full of items to make our lives more convenient – from fast-food wrappers and cups to disposable bags. But these convenience items, as well as other disposable items we use, can end up in landfills. It costs money to dispose of them and creates environmental problems.

Project Learning Tree’s Waste & Recycling Investigation is one of five hands-on, student-driven investigations at the heart of PLT's GreenSchools program where students investigate how much waste their school generates and where it goes, as well as recycling and composting efforts. The Investigation details specific things for students to measure and observe, along with student worksheets to fill out and guidance on how to combine data collected into a school-wide analysis.

PLT's GreenSchools program inspires students to improve the environment at their school, at home, and in their community. Student-led Green Teams apply STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) to create greener and healthier schools—and save schools money!

In the Waste & Recycling Investigation, students collect data on their school’s waste stream, including recycling, composting, and waste removal. Using the data collected from the Investigation, students can develop action projects to reduce waste and natural resources use.

Examples of Students’ Action Plans: Students compost cafeteria waste and cut down on disposables. They recycle batteries, milk containers, plastic bags, and other items. They educate others at school and in their community about reducing waste, for example, cutting down on single use plastics.

Visit Project Learning Tree’s website to read stories of students’ action projects. Hear from students about their green school’s journey, and from teachers about lessons they learned along the way, as well as their tips for others interested in implementing similar projects.

Get all five GreenSchools Investigations here which includes:

  • Adult Leader Guide – Information on the benefits of becoming a green school, who to involve, how to form a Green Team, the steps to take to support students in conducting the Investigations, STEM connections and suggestions for additional activities to enhance each Investigation topic. 
  • Energy Investigation - Students investigate how much energy their school uses, the main sources of that energy, and ways to implement energy-saving strategies.
  • Environmental Quality Investigation - Students investigate areas where improvements can be made in indoor air quality, transportation, chemical use, and more.
  • School Site Investigation - Students investigate natural habitats, wildlife, trees, grounds maintenance practices, and ways to make improvements to their school site.
  • Waste & Recycling Investigation - Students investigate how much waste their school generates and where it goes, as well as recycling and composting efforts.
  • Water Investigation - Students investigate the source, cost, and quality of their school's water supply, and ways to enhance current water conservation practices.


“The investigations led students to recognize the need for reducing campus waste and replanting the beds in front of the school with drought-tolerant native plants. Using these findings, they conducted a campus-wide educational campaign and constructed composting bins to reduce waste.”

– Jane Smith, School Counselor, Joan MacQueen Middle School, Alpine, CA

“Our seventh-graders have accomplished great things since we started with the PLT GreenSchools program. We’ve made major strides in making our school greener using activities from the School Site, Energy, and Waste and Recycling Investigations. Thanks to their efforts, we are now the number one school in our district for energy conservation.”

– Jill Henrie, Neil Richards, and Kelly Flindt, 7th grade science teachers, Owasso Seventh Grade Center, Owasso, OK

“PLT’s GreenSchools gives the school tools to make decisions, and gives kids a sense of purpose and worthwhile achievement.”

– Sandy Gresham, Science Teacher, Lowcountry Preparatory School, Pawleys Island, SC