Fun and Games the 3R Way

Trash Bag Relay

Turn a relay race in to an investigative, hands-on trash sort!  Students have fun as they learn the concepts of reduce, reuse and recycle.



  • Two bags of identical clean trash.  Use an assortment of bottles, cans, packaging, paper products, old clothes, and toy food. Make sure you have enough for each child to have at least one turn.
  • Two trash cans
  • Two recycling bins




  • Explain what can be recycled with examples of each (paper, plastic bottles, aluminum and tin cans).  Note: Though glass jars and bottles can be recycled, it is safer to leave this material out of the game.
  • Place the two bags of trash at one end of the room, at least four feet apart.  Have each team lineup behind the trash bags.  At the other end of the room, place the recycle bin and trash can opposite of the trash bag.
  • Explain that each student will have a turn (one by one) to pull an item from the trash bag (to save time, instruct students to pull out the first item they touch.) Once the item is selected, the student will walk to the recycle bin and trashcan and decide: can the item be recycled or does it have to go in the trash?  The item is then placed in the appropriate container.
  • The student then walks back and tags the next person in line, who then takes their turn.
  • Continue until the bag is empty.




  • When the race is over, have the students sit in front of the recycling bins and trash cans.  Pull items from each container and ask students if the item was in the right place.  Discuss how some items might be reused.  With disposable items, discuss how the volume of wastes could be reduced if other choices were made.


The activity can be repeated, introducing the concept of reduce and recycle.  If the student can think of a way the item can be reduced or reused, have them place it next to the recycle bin in a reuse pile

Plastics Scavenger Hunt

Get hands-on with plastic, learning about the seven resin codes, and exploring all types of plastic packaging through a scavenger hunt.


  • Examples of plastic packaging (see chart below).  Collect a wide variety of each so that each team can find at least one of each type.  Before the activity starts, hide the items throughout the classroom or playground.
  • Grocery bag for each team.
  • Team list of each item that can be found.  For example: #1 plastic jelly jar
  • #2 plastic detergent bottle
  • #3 plastic shampoo bottle
  • #4 plastic bag
  • #5 yogurt container
  • #6 egg carton
  • #7 ketchup bottle



  • Discuss the plastic resin code system.  Demonstrate how the code can usually be found on the bottom of the plastic item.
  • Explain that each type of plastic has qualities that make it useful as a package;  #1 plastics hold carbonation in soda,  #6 polystyrene keeps eggs from breaking.
  • In teams of 3 or 4 have each group try to find each type of plastic on their list, placing it in the grocery bag.



  • At the end of the game compare the findings.
  • Discuss that plastics are made from a non-renewable resource, petroleum, and what that means.
  • Discuss which plastics can be recycled in your area. Discuss the importance of including only plastics accepted in your local recycling program.  Many are not aware that other plastics are a contaminant that can cause problems for the processor.
  • Question- if you have choice between a recyclable container and a non-recyclable one, which is the better for the environment?
  • Resin codes poster (pdf)


Resin Poster

Trash Sculpture

Trash becomes treasure through art! This concept can be done as contest similar to a science fair where students work independently on a project at home or as a classroom activity.