Students explore how single-use plastic items are used every day and have harmful impacts on the environment.

Learning objective

Students will learn about single-use plastics, how they impact the environment and use role play scenarios to help them think of solutions.

Curriculum links

Language for interaction
Expressing and developing ideas

Responding to literature

Interacting with others

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability

Single-use plastic, marine life, litter

This lesson explores how single-use plastics are harmful for the environment and provides ideas about reusable options.

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 Plastic Planet YouTube video

Plastic drink bottle and reusable drink bottle

Plastic bag and cloth bag

Disposable cup and reusable cup

Plastic straw and reusable straw (bamboo or steel)

  1. Model drinking out of a disposable plastic drink bottle and pretend to throw it away.
  2. Discuss with students:
    • How many times did it get used?
    • Where do they think it goes after it is used?
    • What if we keep using things once and throwing them away?
  3. Watch Plastic Planet
  4. Question suggestions:
    • What did the girl use for her groceries at the shop? (plastic bags, lots of packaging)
    • Why is the girl sad when she gets home? How do we know?
    • Did it affect the animals and marine life? How?
  5. Explore different ways of expressing emotion. Ask students how the movie made them feel. Write down the words and discuss new vocabulary.
  6. Discuss the type of choices the girl made:
    • How do we know she did the right thing?
    • What body language did she use?
    • What were some facial expressions of the girl and her family?
  7. Discuss examples of single-use plastic from the video. Write four items on the white board:
    1. Plastic bags
    2. Plastic straws
    3. Disposable cups
    4. Plastic water bottles
  8. Brainstorm alternatives to single-use plastic and record under each heading:
    • Say “no thank you” to demonstrate ‘refuse’
    • What could they use instead of a straw? Their lips.
  9. Divide class into four groups and assign a single-use plastic category to each group. Give each group the plastic item and a reusable alternative from the resource list.
  10. Each group will present a role play to the class to (express personal responses), showing how they feel using each item. Encourage audience skills and presentation skills.