Jump to main content or area navigation.

Contact Us

Wastes—Educational Materials

Teachers: Curriculum and Activities

The resources below include project ideas, tools, games, and activities for students of all ages.

Resources for Grades K - 5
Resources for Grades 6 - 8
Resources for Grades 9 - 12
Additional Materials

You will need the free Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA’s PDF page to learn more.

Resources for Grades K – 5

Three boys standing together in a classroom

The Planet Protectors Club is an interactive Web site that takes you and your students on a learning adventure with challenging activity books, educational games, and fun stories. A free, hard copy Planet Protectors Club kit is also available. This kit provides guides for elementary school students, as well as for parents, teachers, and after school leaders.

Planet Protectors Club kit includes the following:

You can order the kit in any of the following ways:

  1. Link to the Order Form, fill in all of the boxes, and click on the submit button at the bottom of the form;
  2. Call the National Center for Environmental Publications at 1-800-490-9198;
  3. Send your order to US EPA/NSCEP, PO Box 42419, Cincinnati, Ohio 45242-0419;
  4. Fax your order to (301) 604-3408; or
  5. E-mail.

The Quest for Less—Activities and Resources for Teaching K - 8
The Quest for Less provides hands-on lessons and activities, enrichment ideas, journal writing assignments and other educational tools and skills relating to reusing, reducing, and recycling waste. In sequence, The Quest for Less introduces the concept of natural resources as a source for many products that become solid waste; explains the life cycle of products and the quantity and type of waste they produce; and reviews the common methods of managing waste, including composting, landfilling, incinerating, and preventing waste in the first place.

Teachers can use The Quest for Less in development of, or as a supplement to, lesson plans, as special week-long units on the environment and solid waste, or to commemorate Earth Day. Each chapter includes one or more fact sheets providing background information on each topic; each activity provides the suggested duration, materials needed and other helpful information for teachers. A glossary of terms and a glossary on skill are also included.

EPA’s Environmental Kid’s Club
This website offers games, activities, pictures, and stories that enable kids to explore their environment and learn about how to protect it. Topics include garbage and recycling, air, water, plants and animals, and others.

Top of page


Resources for Grades 6 – 8

Students comparing notes in a classroom

The Quest for Less—Activities and Resources for Teaching K - 8
The Quest for Less provides hands-on lessons and activities, enrichment ideas, journal writing assignments and other educational tools and skills relating to reusing, reducing, and recycling waste. In sequence, The Quest for Less introduces the concept of natural resources as a source for many products that become solid waste, explains the life cycle of products and the quantity and type of waste they produce, and reviews the common methods of managing waste, including composting, landfilling, incinerating and preventing waste in the first place.

Teachers can use The Quest for Less in development of, or as a supplement to, lesson plans, as special week-long units on the environment and solid waste, or to commemorate Earth Day. Each chapter includes one or more fact sheets providing background information on each topic; each activity provides the suggested duration, materials needed and other helpful information for teachers. A glossary of terms and a glossary on skill are also included.

Make a Difference Campaign (Middle School Kit)
The “Make a Difference” campaign is aimed at educating and engaging young people in resource conservation and environmental protection. It encourages youth to make informed decisions in their day-to-day lives to help protect the environment. As part of the campaign, EPA has developed a resource kit entitled, Your Life, Your World, Your Choices, which inspires youth to reduce, reuse, and recycle to “make a difference” at home, at school, and in their communities.

The kit includes the following items:

  • Be Waste Aware – Waste Reduction Resources and Tools for Students (PDF) (2 pp, 192K)
    This flyer provides online resources for learning more about municipal solid waste (also known as trash or garbage), as well as hazardous waste. These resources can help students better understand the type, amount, and impact of solid waste.

  • A Collection of Solid Waste Resources on CD-ROM
    This CD contains approximately 300 publications developed by EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery (ORCR). It provides information on how to reduce, reuse, and recycle trash and properly manage different forms of hazardous and solid waste. The CD includes educational materials and activities for kids and descriptions of ORCR’s partnership programs. There are alphabetical and subject indices and full-text search capability across documents.

  • “Greenscaping” Your Lawn and Garden (PDF) (8 pp, 1.8MB) | Image of espanol tag (PDF) (8 pp, 313K)
    This booklet encourages readers to grasscycle, mulch, and compost to reduce the amount of yard waste in the waste stream. It provides details on how and what to compost, discusses changing landscaping to “greenscaping” by reducing (using manual tools and fewer harmful pesticides), reusing (collecting rainwater), recycling used oil and tires from landscaping vehicles and equipment, and rebuying (purchasing gardening products made from recycled materials).

  • Let’s Go Green Shopping | Image of espanol tag (PDF) (12 pp, 275K)
    This booklet encourages youth to shop with the environment in mind. Shoppers can conserve resources, save energy, and prevent waste by buying products that are energy efficient, used or reusable, made with recycled content, recyclable, and have no packaging or reduced packaging. The publication lists resources for more information.

  • The Life Cycle of a CD/DVD (PDF) (2 pp, 400K) | Image of espanol tag (PDF) (2 pp, 1.1MB)
    This poster depicts the life cycle of a CD or DVD from obtaining raw materials through manufacture, packaging, distribution, useful life, and disposal. It explains the importance of life cycle management and encourages reuse and recycling. The poster also includes crafts and other ways to reuse CDs and DVDs.

  • The Life Cycle of a Cell Phone (PDF) (2 pp, 648K) | Image of espanol tag (PDF) (2 pp, 540K)
    This poster shows the life cycle of a cell phone from obtaining raw materials through manufacture, packaging, distribution, useful life, and disposal. It explains the importance of life cycle management and encourages reuse and recycling. The poster also contains games and activities. View Secret Life of a Smart Phone: Infographic

  • The Life Cycle of a Soccer Ball (PDF) (2 pp, 4.3MB) | Image of espanol tag (2 pp, 4.3MB)
    This poster depicts the life cycle of a soccer ball from obtaining raw materials through manufacture, packaging, distribution, useful life, and disposal. It explains the importance of life cycle management and encourages reuse and recycling. The poster also includes crafts and other ways to reuse soccer balls and equipment.

  • Make a Difference in Your School: A How-to Guide for Engaging Students in Resource Conservation and Waste Reduction (PDF) (34 pp, 1.7MB)
    This guide provides advice, ideas, and inspiration to teachers, school administrators, and others for planning a hands-on environmental day at school.

  • The New Wave in Electronics: eCycling (PDF) (2 pp, 388K)
    This brochure provides information on how to dispose of old or unwanted electronic equipment without throwing it away. It lists electronic items that can be recycled and contains general information about how and where to eCycle them.

  • Pack a Waste-Free Lunch
    This web page contains a poster that will help students learn how to reduce, reuse, and recycle items in their school lunches. It includes activities from the back of the poster in individual files for classroom use. Use the poster to get your students interested in waste-free lunches and to learn how to organize a Waste-Free Lunch Day.

  • Science Fair Fun—Designing Environmental Science Projects (PDF) (24 pp, 990K) | Image of espanol tag (PDF) (16 pp, 220K)
    This booklet provides students in grades 6-8 with ideas and resources for developing environmental science fair projects, focusing specifically on reducing, reusing, and recycling waste materials. It includes sample projects and tips for conducting experiments.

  • Service Learning: Education Beyond the Classroom (PDF) (32 pp, 942K) | Image of espanol tag (PDF) (32 pp, 410K)
    This booklet describes how students across the country are gaining hands-on awareness of waste reduction, recycling, and composting, through solid waste service-learning projects. Service-learning, an educational experience that combines knowledge with service and personal reflection, is teaching various aspects of safe solid waste management, such as reducing household hazardous waste and buying recycled-content products. This booklet contains 17 profiles of school-based and community projects. Contacts and additional resources are also included to provide information on how to start a solid waste service-learning program.

  • Tools to Reduce Waste in Schools
    EPA developed this easy-to-use guide to help schools and school districts implement new, or expand upon existing, waste reduction programs.

  • You Can Make a Difference: Learn About Careers in Waste Management (PDF) (2 pp, 397K) | Image of espanol tag (PDF) (2 pp, 397K)
    This flyer describes career opportunities in waste management. It addresses community service, student employment, internships, and advanced education. The flyer also describes the activities of the Office of Solid Waste, OSW (renamed Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery, ORCR, on January 18, 2009).

You can order the kit in any of the following ways:

  1. Link to the Order Form, fill in all of the boxes, and click on the submit button at the bottom of the form;
  2. Call the National Center for Environmental Publications at 1-800-490-9198;
  3. Send your order to US EPA/NSCEP, PO Box 42419, Cincinnati, Ohio 45242-0419;
  4. Fax your order to (301) 604-3408; or
  5. E-mail.
Handle with Care: How To Throw Out Used Insulin Syringes and Lancets at Home: A Booklet for Young People with Diabetes and Their Families (PDF) (10 pp, 467K)
Offers easy directions and illustrations on how to protect family members and waste handlers from injury, while keeping the environment clean and safe.

Recycle City
This interactive website allows students to explore how the residents of a fictitious town called “Recycle City” reduce, reuse, and recycle their waste. The website also provides a game called “Dumptown” that allows students to help clean up a littered, polluted city. Information for teachers on how to use Recycle City in the classroom are included.

Rotten Truth About Garbage Exit EPA
This online exhibition takes an in-depth look at the complex issues surrounding municipal solid waste. It is organized into four major sections: What Is Garbage?, There’s No “Away”, Nature Recycles, and Making Choices. Includes activities for at home or school, a guest expert to answer garbage-related questions, and an extensive resource list to learn more. This website was developed by the Association of Science-Technology Centers and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.

Creating Less Trash at School (PDF) (4 pp, 165K) Exit EPA
From the classroom to the cafeteria, this flyer shows students how to reduce waste at school (created by the Minnesota Office of Pollution Control).

EPA’s Student Center
This website allows students to explore a wide range of environmental issues. Topics include waste and recycling, air, water, conservation, and ecosystems.

Top of page


Resources for Grades 9 – 12

Teenagers talking outside of a high school

Your Environment. Your Choice.
This EPA website encourages high school students to make environmentally sound choices about the products and natural resources they use, the waste they create and the environment in which they live.

Rotten Truth about Garbage Exit EPA
This online exhibition takes an in-depth look at the complex issues surrounding municipal solid waste. It is organized into four major sections: What Is Garbage?, There’s No “Away,” Nature Recycles, and Making Choices. Includes activities for at home or school, a guest expert to answer garbage-related questions, and an extensive resource list to learn more. This website was developed by the Association of Science-Technology Centers and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.

EPA’s High School Environmental Center
Provides information about environmental issues to help students protect the environment. Topics include waste and recycling, air, water, conservation, ecosystems, health and safety, and community resources.

Top of page


Additional Materials

EPA’s Teachers Center
This website provides a collection of fact sheets, brochures, and other information to assist you in teaching your students about the environment. Information on workshops, conferences, grants, scholarships, and awards is also included.

Waste Prevention and Recycling Clip Art Exit EPA
You can find a variety of clip art at this website for inclusion in school reports or other projects. Clip art is available relating to everything from recycling to waste reduction measures. You can easily download this clip art in several different formats.

Photo Library – Environmental Education Station Exit EPA
These photos are royalty free and may be used without charge for any educational purpose. Includes photos of pollution, dumping, litter, waste receptacles, recycling, and much more.

Young students working on classroom science project

Keep America Beautiful Exit EPA
Keep America Beautiful’s Clean Sweep USA provides lesson plans on solid waste management, recycling, composting, litter, and more. Two curricula—Waste In Place (grades K - 6) and Waste: A Hidden Resource (grades 9 - 12)—build critical thinking, processing, and problem solving skills through imaginative, hands-on lessons. The website also provides information on workshops and training for teachers, as well as information on how to set up solid waste recycling programs in schools.

America Recycles Day Exit EPA
The America Recycles Day website contains information on the upcoming and past America Recycles Day. The site contains a fact sheet and press releases about the event, as well as suggested reading materials and links to additional information. Learn how schools can participate through the America Recycles Day state contacts.

Encyclopedia of the Earth Exit EPA
Provided by the National Council for Science and the Environment, this website serves as a comprehensive portal to environmental information and data. A list of topics allows users to quickly and easily locate information on a wide-range of environmental issues.

Earth 911 Exit EPA
The Earth 911 Web site contains a wide variety of information on solid waste related topics, including recycling, composting, and buying recycled products.

Top of page

Tips to reduce waste

Drag the recyclables off the conveyor belt and put them in the correct bins.
(NOTE: For optimal functionality, please access via Internet Explorer browser)

Tips to reduce waste
  • Use products made with recycled materials
  • Use energy-efficient light bulbs and rechargeable batteries
  • Shop with cloth bags
  • Reuse plastic bags, cups, containers, etc.
  • Repair items instead of throwing them away.
  • Compost your food and yard waste.

Learn more about reducing, reusing, and recycling.

Jump to main content.