Add to collection
  • + Create new collection
  • 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.

    Rights: Lara Bieleski

    Recyclable waste

    Bottles and cans to be sorted and recycled. Much of the waste disposed of in landfills could have been separated and reused, recycled or turned into compost.

    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.

    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.

    Rights: WasteMINZ

    Illegal dumping

    A pile of rubbish illegally tipped by the road side. It’s important to make waste disposal and recycling options easily accessible and attractive, to avoid problems with illegal dumping of waste, which often contains hazardous waste.

    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.

    Rights: The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato

    ZESPRI biospife

    The biospife is made from bioplastic material that incorporates kiwifruit residues. It is biodegradable and designed to be composted along with the kiwifruit skins when you’ve finished eating the fruit.

    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


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

    Rights: Flight Plastics

    Flight Plastics recycling plant

    The Flight Plastics recycling plant sorts, crushes and washes plastic bottles and packaging to recover PET plastic.

    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:

    Rights: Sustainable Coastlines, CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ

    Cleaning up the coast

    School children in Mount Maunganui take part in a Sustainable Coastlines Phoenix Mt Maunganui Clean-up.

    Useful link

    Use the Building Science Concepts Book 61 Recycling: New Uses for Rubbish to further support the understanding that materials can be classified by their properties.

      Published 1 July 2015, Updated 8 March 2022 Referencing Hub articles
          Go to full glossary
          Download all