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Classroom Recycling Challenge

In this activity, students save the garbage from their lunches, sort it into different bins and analyze their findings to determine how much waste the average lunch creates.

After the garbage sorting exercise, the class is guided through establishing ‘litterless lunch goals’ and works together to accomplish these goals.  


  • Identify the waste that they are personally responsible for.

  • Identify the collective amount of waste produced by their school’s students and staff.

  • Establish goals for waste reduction within their classroom and for the entire school.

  • Engage with their own families and their community about packing a litter free lunch and help to create easy and effective waste reduction strategies for their classroom and home.


  • Per Class:
    empty waste bin
    rubber gloves (for participating students)
    bathroom scale
    several smaller containers
    pen & paper

Key Questions

  • What kind of garbage is the most common?
  • How can we reduce the amount of litter in our lunches?

What To Do

  1. Set an empty waste bin in a prominent place in the classroom.
  2. Ask students to deposit their trash from lunch into the empty waste bin.
  3. Once all of the lunch waste has been collected, spread a tarp out on the classroom floor (or the ground outside).
  4. Ask students to make observations about the waste on the tarp.
  5. Have students sort the materials on the tarp into three heaps: recyclables, compostables, and garbage. If possible, have students place recyclables and compostables in an appropriate final container.
  6. Weigh the total garbage collected with the bathroom scale.
  7. Record all findings and observations. Take photos!
  8. Repeat the sorting and recording activity in three months time. Compare the results!


  • Discuss litter legacies and have students write letters to their parents asking for a litter free lunch.
  • Sign up for Waste Reduction week.
  • Have students expand the litterless lunch program to include other classes.
  • Have students expand the litterless lunch program to include the staff room. Ask students to guide teachers through the sorting process.
  • Begin a competition between classes or between students and teachers for which group can have the most litter-free lunches.

Other Resources

MetroVancouver | Single-Use Item Reduction Tool Kit

Waste Reduction Week Canada

BC Green Games