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Waste in the curriculum

Learning about waste can be used to deliver many parts of the National Curriculum (NC). It can also be integrated into a number of Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) schemes of work, as well as GCSE and A level courses in some subjects. Here are just some of the many possible examples of how this can be done.

English & Literacy


Ask pupils to discuss or debate what their responsibilities are in terms of creating and dealing with waste, either at school or at home. Whilst doing so, they should learn to talk effectively as members of a group, qualifying or justifying what they think after listening to others' questions or accounts and dealing politely with opposing points of view. NC link: KS2/En1/3c, d


Evaluate information about waste from two different sources, for example the two sides of the argument about whether or not incineration of waste is a good alternative to landfill. NC link: KS4/En3/1i, j, k

Maths & Numeracy


Measure the volume and weight of waste produced by the school in a day and work out from this the amount that would be produced in a year. NC links: KS2/Ma2/1a, 4a & Ma3/4a, b

Draw graphs of the amount of waste produced in different parts of the school. NC link: KS2/Ma4/1a, c & 2c, f


Measure the amount of packaging (in terms of weight and/or volume) on various products and consider the least 'packaging-intensive' way of buying a particular product. NC links: KS3/Ma2/1a, 4a & Ma3/1b



Learn about the role of micro-organisms in the breakdown of waste. e.g. through work on composting. NC link: KS 2/Sc2/5f.

Investigate materials and their properties by grouping and classifying different types of waste materials and considering why they are used for specific purposes e.g. different types of plastic, paper and card. NC links: KS1/Sc3/1c,d & KS2/Sc3/1a

Use the concepts of non-renewable and renewable resources, reuse and recycling to explore the way in which changes in materials are either reversible or irreversible. NC link: KS2/Sc3/2d & f and QCA unit 6D - Reversible and irreversible changes


Learn about waste and resource use in the context of sustainable development. NC links: KS 3/Sc2/5a & KS4/Sc2/4c & GCSE Science Units: 'The environment' & 'Earth resources'.

Consider how levels of production of waste are related to social and economic factors including population size, industrial processes and levels of consumption. NC link: KS4/Sc2/4b,5b

Investigate the role of waste as a possible energy source, considering both the advantages and disadvantages. NC links: KS3/Sc4/5a & KS4/Sc4/4b & QCA unit 7I - Energy resources.

Look at an example of how a metal can be purified or recycled by electrolysis. NC link: KS4 Sc3/2j.

Examine the production of waste and effluent in chemical manufacture and the economics of pollution control. Chemistry AS/A level unit: Chemistry in action.

Study the economic importance and environmental impact of polymer production and disposal. Critically assess a polymer product, and analyse the associated costs and benefits in economic, social and environmental terms. Chemistry AS/A level unit: Industrial chemistry



Include the issues of waste and litter when asking pupils to express their views about local places. NC link: KS1/1c,5b & QCA unit 8 -Improving the environment

Consider waste when identifying how people can improve the environment [e.g. by reducing their level of resource use] or damage it [for example, by flytipping and over-reliance on landfill and incineration]. NC link: KS2/5a & QCA unit 21 - How can we improve the area we see from our window?

Use waste as an example when identifying and explaining the different views that people hold about topical geographical issues. NC link: KS2/1d


Use the context of waste in order to appreciate how people's values and attitudes affect contemporary social, environmental, economic and political issues, and to clarify and develop students' own values and attitudes about such issues. NC link: KS3/1e

Use waste as a starting point to explore the idea of sustainable development and recognise its implications for people, places and environments and for students' own lives. NC link: KS3/5b & QCA unit 23 - Local actions, global effects

Geography GCSE Units within which waste issues could be explored include:

People and the environment
Places and people
Economic development
Change in cities and towns
Managing natural resources
Location and economic activity

Geography AS/A level units within which waste issues could be explored include:

Economic activity and change
Developing urban environments
The changing natural environment
Population and economic development
Changing patterns of settlement
Environmental pollution
Managing change in the human environment

Design & Technology


Challenge pupils to make things using largely or only waste materials. e.g. for the KS1 QCA unit: - Homes

Consider the issue of waste when investigating and describing a range of packaging. When designing and constructing packaging, seek to minimise the amount of waste produced or seek to use materials that are reusable or recyclable. NC link: KS2/3c & QCA unit 3A - Packaging


Include an assessment of waste produced by packaging and the product itself when evaluating the quality of other people's products. Consider whether resources have been used appropriately and their impact beyond the purpose for which they were designed. NC link: KS3/3c & KS4 units:Design and the market, Manufacturing processes & Manufacturing food.

When designing own products, take into account the environmental, economic and social implications of the resources used. Pupils should also consider the impact of the final product, including its potential for recycling or reuse where appropriate. e.g. for KS3 units on Selecting materials



Use the weblinks provided on this site to research and present findings about a particular aspect of waste, for example, the origins and uses of a specific material and how it is dealt with as a waste product. NC link: KS2/1a,b,c


Use ICT to work with a remote partner from another school to compare recycling provision and rates; either comparing parts of the UK or comparing the UK to another country. KS3 QCA unit 14: Global communication - negotiating and transferring data

Include waste and resource issues when reflecting critically on the impact of ICT on their own and others' lives. For example, set the potential of the 'paperless office' in reducing paper use against the increased need for disposal of failed or outdated computer equipment. NC link: KS4/4b

Art & Design


Investigate the use of waste materials in art and design and create their own works making use of waste materials. e.g. QCA unit 1C - What is sculpture?

Consider the extent to which containers such as packaging are necessary or whether they serve other purposes e.g. to make contents appear more attractive. Pupils could also look at the extent to which the materials used are capable of being recycled or reused. e.g. QCA unit 5B: - Containers


Pupils might be asked to communicate ideas and concepts about sustainable development through proposals for public art and design, making use of reused waste materials. e.g. QCA unit 8C - Shared view



Study changes in packaging when identifying differences between ways of life at different times. NC link: KS1/2b & QCA unit 13:- How has life in Britain changed since 1948?



Use waste materials to create musical sounds, either in their own right or when combined to form 'musical instruments'. NC links: KS1/5b & KS2/5b & QCA unit 2: Sounds interesting - Exploring sounds

Citizenship & PSHE


Consider how resources can be allocated in different ways and that these economic choices affect individuals, communities and the sustainability of the environment. NC link: KS2/2j & QCA unit 2 - Choices

Include the establishment of a composting scheme as part of the development of school grounds. QCA unit 6 - Developing our school grounds


Examine the wider issues and challenges of global interdependence and responsibility, including sustainable development and Local Agenda 21. NC link: KS4/1j & GCSE unit - Global citizenship

Compare ways in which schools and communities deal with waste in different parts of the country or of the world. KS3 QCA unit 17 - School linking

Other Key Stage 3 QCA units within which waste issues could be explored include:

Unit 10 - Debating a global issue
Unit 18 - Developing your school grounds

Key Stage 4 QCA units in Citizenship within which waste issues could be explored include:

Unit 9 - Consumer rights and responsibilities
Unit 12 - Global issues, local action

Religious Education


Consider the issue of waste when talking about attitudes towards people and places, and considering how they can show respect for them. e.g. QCA Unit 5D - 'How do the beliefs of Christians influence their actions?'


Include the issue of waste when considering the teachings of Christian and other religions on social, economic and environmental issues. e.g. QCA Unit 7E - What are we doing to the environment?

Religious Studies GCSE Unit: 'Religion and the natural world' includes types of environmental pollution; conservation of natural resources; and religious & non-religious arguments about environmental issues, creation and stewardship.

Modern Languages


Investigate and discuss how other countries deal with their waste and find out what we in the U.K. can learn from their example. NC link: KS 3 & 4/Breadth of study/5c, h, i

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