Students watch a fun video on alternatives to using single-use plastics and learn ideas on how to ‘chose to refuse’. They learn about the waste hierarchy and that recycling is not the best option compared to avoiding single-use plastics.

Learning objective

Students will learn about single-use plastics, how they impact the environment once they are discarded, and use a placemat activity to help them think of solutions. They will write a persuasive text on a chosen reusable alternative.

Curriculum links

Language for interaction
Expressing and developing ideas

Interacting with others
Interpreting, analysing and evaluation
Creating texts

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability

Single-use plastic, marine life, litter

Single-use plastic includes all plastic packaging that is intended only to be used once, then discarded. Reducing waste by avoiding single-use plastic fits into the avoidance section of the waste hierarchy. Single-use plastics are often difficult to recycle, so these can end up in landfill where they may never break down.

Changing our habits to avoid using single-use plastics is a great way to start reducing the amount of plastic entering our environment. Many people ‘choose to refuse’ single-use plastics such as bottled water, drinking straws and plastic shopping bags. Options such as reusable water bottles, metal or paper straws, and reusable bags are becoming more common.

In 2017, Keep Australia Beautiful and the Tangaroa Blue Australian Marine Debris Initiative reported that more than 75 per cent of the rubbish collected on Western Australian beaches was plastic.

Access to internet to watch video, paper for placemat activity

  1. Show students the Surf Riders Foundation YouTube video ‘Where is away? Solving plastic pollution’ (4.12 min) Note: This is American but appropriate for this age showing surfing, skating and musicians.
  2. Discuss:
    • What surprised them the most? Why?
    • Was it effective in making them rethink using plastic products? Why?
  3. Discuss the difference between single-use plastic and reusable plastic items.
  4. Break students into groups and do a placemat activity. Individually list all the plastic they have touched in the last 24 hours. Record ideas in their section of the paper.
  5. As a group decide which are single-use and which are reusable. One student, as the recorder, writes the ideas in two separate circles in the middle of the paper.
  6. Another student, the group leader, shares the ideas with the class. Write in two columns on the white board. Discuss:
    • What are the most common disposable plastic items used?
    • How many times are they used? What happens to them?
    • Which disposable item has a reusable alternative?
    • Discuss the idea of ‘avoid’ such as saying no to plastic straws.
  7. Students choose one single-use plastic item and write a persuasive text to convince people to use a reusable alternative. Consider audience, for example their peers, parents or teachers. This will affect the language and tone that is used.

  1. Put up the following quote and discuss whether they agree with it: Think about it: Why would you make something that you are going to use for a few minutes out of a material that’s basically going to last forever and you’re just going to throw it away. What’s up with that?  Jeb Barrier –  Bag It movie
  2. Ask each student to think of a plastic free pledge they would like to make. Display in the classroom or around the school.