Where are plastics? Part one

Lesson overview

Students follow the life cycle of a single-use bottle. Using Google Maps, students track the journey a plastic bottle goes on during its lifetime and map the possible outcomes of where it could end up. Students go on to consider some alternatives to recycling plastic, such as re-using it. It may be possible to organise a speaker to join this lesson, some local authorities offer schools programmes or outreach workshops.

Learning outcomes
  • Explore what happens to a plastic bottle after its first and only use
  • Map the journey of a plastic bottle from production to recycling or litter
  • Understand the recycling process
  • Demonstrate how single use plastics can be reused
  • Explore alternative uses for a range of discarded plastics
Lesson steps
  1. Single-use bottles (10 mins)
    Students discuss what they think happens to plastic bottles once they’ve finished with them and explore some statistics about plastic use, recycling and litter.
  2. The plastic journey (20 mins)
    Using Google Maps students plot the journey of a plastic bottle from the drilling of oil to the retailer, right through to its arrival at a recycling centre. Note: Students will require a Google account to complete this activity.
  3. Bird-feeder / snack box (20 mins)
    Students complete Activity 3b: Bird-feeder and / or Activity 3c: Snack box. They then consider the alternatives to throwing plastics away and evaluate their new product.
  4. Alternative thinking (10 mins)
    Students mind map ideas of alternative uses for single-use plastics.