Garbage Landfills Recycling Plastic Unit Print & Digital

Grade Levels
9th - 12th, Homeschool
Resource Type
Formats Included
  • Zip
  • Google Apps™
82 PDF + 45 Google Slides pages
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Includes Google Apps™
The Teacher-Author indicated this resource includes assets from Google Workspace (e.g. docs, slides, etc.).


Explore in this unit the increasingly urgent problem of our world’s biggest growing problem: garbage. Everything from single-use disposable plastic to landfills and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to the myth of recycling and zero-waste living is covered!

Grab students attention with shocking numbers, make it real with eye-opening documentaries and videos, guide them to dig deeper with scientific findings current issues, and inspire them to make zero-waste swaps in their own life and encourage others to do the same.

This unit comes in both print PDF and digital for Google Slides.


Greatness is believing in the power of one person’s choices to impact the world.

Few teenagers know the world beyond their own surroundings and many have no idea how their lifestyle, their consumption levels, their “normal” behavior are not the reality for much of the world, especially when it comes to our natural resources.

Guide your students through a variety of sources, from documentaries and graphs to news articles and their own research, as they grapple with the urgent question: “How can I reduce the amount of garbage I create?”

Set each of them up for success with this high interest, multi-faceted unit with highly scaffolded graphic organizers, student directions, and supplemental resources included at each step of the way.

And empower your students to become eco-aware smaller-footprint citizens in this 3-week unit!

Included in this complete inquiry-driven unit:

Teacher Materials

  • Teacher Unit Overview with general notes, links, standards, and a pacing guide with standards (3 pages)
  • Daily Lesson Plans with step-by-step directions, planning tips, and lesson takeaway notes (14 pages total)
  • Detailed Answer Keys for each activity
  • Image Files of each of the included data displays
  • Unit Review and Skills handouts with self-checking questions and "I Can..." statements
  • Skill Handouts that include Annotating a Text, Analyzing News Media Sources, Analyzing a Political Cartoon

Student Materials

  • Unit Notes: deepen learning on the concept garbage throughout the unit
  • Incoming Brainstorm: open unit with discussion of the unit's central concept, garbage
  • Garbage Pop Quiz: kick off the unit with some eye-opening statistics and facts
  • Human Footprint: using a eye-popping displays of lifetime supplies of everyday items in this documentary, students realize how much they really consume
  • What Even is Plastic? Video Notes: gain a solid overview of world's favorite material, plastic, including it's history, versatility, and enormous cost of being largely non-recyclable with guided notes for short informational videos
  • Where is "Away?": investigate where garbage really goes by exploring images of various landfills around the world
  • Plastic Use & Pollution: analyze a wide variety of maps and graphs for how plastic has exponentially exploded in use and how much is ending up in oceans and landfills
  • Bag It: follow one everyday man on his journey to stop using single-use disposable plastic items in this entertaining documentary
  • Case Study: Zero-Waste Life: dig into the daily lifestyles of people when have given up on creating garbage
  • Money Can't Buy Happiness: investigate what experts are uncovering about the relationship between stuff and being happy
  • Be the Solution Project: research zero-waste alternatives to everyday products and share learning in engaging infographics and a bulletin board
  • Political Cartoon & News Article Analysis: incorporate timely events with these templates, comes with ideas for how to incorporate throughout the unit
  • Socratic Seminar Discussion: culminate learning with a deep conversation about what all this means for the future of the planet and for your students
  • Assessment: confidently assess with these short-answer and extending written response questions
  • Digital File: link to a Google Slides file with copies of all student sheets

Note on Resources Used

The video clips, news articles, and data displays used in this unit can be accessed free online at the time of this latest update.

As for the two full-length documentaries shown in this unit, Bag It is available for free streaming at the time of this latest update, though you may wish to purchase it. National Geographic's Human Footprint is available inexpensively for DVD purchase or can be simply left out of this unit.

Note to Homeschoolers

Though the included teacher lesson plans are written to fully support a traditional classroom teacher, this resource is also a great fit for your teenage homeschooler:

  • the inquiry structure of this unit is driven by critical thinking, reading, and writing skills and a central high-interest question
  • a wide ability range can easily access the rich variety of sources utilized in this unit,
  • your student’s voice is central to each activity, through talking out their learning, maximizing the one-on-one
  • most activities can be completed independently and aren’t solely reliant on group or whole-class work
  • this unit is independent of a textbook, though one could be used for greater background knowledge
  • any one activity can easily be left out to customize for your student’s skill level or personal interest


Looking for more units on sustainability?

These units can be easily integrated into your Current Events, Human Geography, or Environmental Science course

  • Water Supply & Pollution: a 3-week unit exploring our finite freshwater supply and the human rights, pollution, and conservation issues that need urgent solutions
  • Fossil Fuels & Alternatives: a 3-week unit exploring our addiction to oil, the harsh impact it is having on our air pollution and greenhouse gas levels, and the urgent need to switch to clean renewable energy sources
  • Sustainability PBL Unit: an 8-week thematic PBL unit that explores all three: water, fossil fuels, and garbage

Interested in making this into a full-course?

Global Issues to Empower, a semester-long current events, human geography, and environmental science all-in-one course

This listing is for one license for regular, non-commercial classroom use by a single teacher only. In upholding copyright law, PDF resources are uneditable and resources made for Google Classroom have some editing abilities. By purchasing a license to this resource, you have access to all future updates at no cost, available under “My Purchases". Multiple and transferable licenses are available for purchase. To request a complete terms of use prior to purchase or if you have any questions about this resource, please leave a question below under Product Q&A.

Total Pages
82 PDF + 45 Google Slides pages
Answer Key
Included with rubric
Teaching Duration
3 Weeks
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the strengths and limitations of each source in terms of the task, purpose, and audience; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and overreliance on any one source and following a standard format for citation.
Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.
Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.


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