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  • Below are links to Science Learning Hub resources for primary teachers related to recycling and biodegradability in the Material World strand of the New Zealand Curriculum.

    Recycling and biodegradability are favourite topics from the Material World strand of the curriculum for primary teachers. Here are some helpful resources from the Hub.

    The issue of waste

    New Zealand generates almost 3.2 million tonnes of waste that is buried in landfill sites. Waste disposed of in this way is an inefficient use of resources, as much of the waste could have been separated and reused, recycled or turned into compost.

    Waste management – Article

    Oceans of rubbish – Article

    Household waste – Image

    Modern landfill systems

    The way we dispose of wastes in New Zealand has changed dramatically over the last few decades. We have moved from literal dumps and tips to complex landfill systems. The following activities cover engineering practices, a timeline of rubbish disposal, waste management and minimisation in our local environments.

    Structure of landfills – Article

    Looking at modern landfill systems – Activity

    Label the landfill – Activity

    Modern landfill system – Interactive

    Thinking about landfills – Activity

    Biodegradability, recycling and reuse

    A biodegradable object is one that will break down quickly and safely into harmless compounds by using the action of microorganisms. Composting is another name for biodegrading.

    Biodegradability – Article

    Biodegradability, compostability and bioplastics – Article

    Measuring biodegradability – Article

    Biodegradability experiment – Activity

    Soil means life – Article

    Observing soil microbes (composting) – Activity

    Potato plates – This introductory article links to articles, media and student activities.

    Testing the degradability of potato plates – Activity

    Bioplastics – Article

    The ZESPRI biospife – Article

    Climate action – Article

    Skateboards made out of harakeke? – Article

    When you can make plastics that have an environmental benefit or don’t use fossil fuels, that gives me an extra drive and a passion to develop an end product.

    Dr Martin Markotsis

    Waste – a growing challenge! – Article, level 1–4 resources on waste and recycling


    There are exciting new developments in plastic waste recycling in New Zealand, find out more.

    Plastics and recycling – Article

    Flight Plastics recycling technology – Article

    DIY plastic recycling plant – Activity

    Plastic – reuse, recycle or rubbish game – Activity

    What happens to our plastic bottles? – Activity

    Plastic is a wicked problem. It’s incredibly useful, but it’s also a huge environmental issue. A helpful resource is Thinking about plastic – planning pathways which includes our interactive planning pathway – use this to begin a cross-curricular look at plastics.

    New Zealand science organisations Royal Society Te Apārangi and the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor have created reports and resources to help us rethink plastic, included is an interactive timeline giving a short history plastic – innovations and some of the impacts.

    Online citizen science

    Citizen scientists are volunteers who contribute to scientific projects, usually by collecting or analysing data.

    Discover how teacher Dianne Christenson used the online citizen science project The Plastic Tide to help develop students’ science capabilities in a unit on sustainability in this case study and unit plan.

    Current citizen science projects you could participate in with your students:


      Published 1 July 2015, Updated 30 October 2020 Referencing Hub articles
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