Waste Minimisation

Waste is what people throw away. Scotland produces about 20 million tonnes of waste a year.  About 20% of that is household waste – that’s almost 2 tonnes for every house in Scotland, every year. 

It is difficult and expensive to dispose of waste. In Scotland, waste is usually burnt in incinerators or buried under the ground at landfill sites. However, capacity is limited and there are concerns about the health and environmental impacts of both methods of disposal.

In 2017 Scottish households recycled 45.6% of their waste. The Scottish Government has set a target for the year 2025 of 70% recycling for all types of waste arising in Scotland, and by 2020 ensuring that nothing that could be reused or recycled is sent to landfill. In order to achieve this target, we must all minimise as much waste as possible at home, at work and at school.

Here are some resources you might find useful on this topic including Single Use Plastics and Food Waste: 

Eco-Schools Curricular Map - Waste Minimisation Topic

Our revised curricular maps showing Experiences and Outcomes related to the Waste Minimisation Topic. 

Download the curricular map for Waste Minimisation

Low Carbon Skills - Films and Classroom Resources

These film resources have been made by pupils in schools across Scotland.  Through making these resources, the young people involved have developed key skills and knowledge that will help them in life and work, why it’s so important to know where products come from and why businesses are encouraged to operate more sustainably to lower their carbon footprint.  These films will perhaps encourage your pupils to take action and make better consumer and life-style choices.

Watch Low Carbon Skills films and download teaching resources

Climate Challenge Fund - Waste

The Climate Challenge Fund supports projects that reduce carbon emissions caused by waste of resources. Projects have worked to reduce over-consumption, encourage the reuse of items, extend the life of everyday items through repair and maintenance and promote recycling of materials.

Have a look at some case studies, or find a funded project in your community.

Glasgow Cup Movement

Almost 500 million single-use cups are used in Scotland each year: an unimaginable number of cups that we are throwing away. And, if only 4% of these are currently recycled, what happens to the remaining 96%? Most go to landfill, but far too many just end up littering our beautiful country.

Join our cup movement

Single Use Plastics - Source to Sea

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), 50% of all plastic produced worldwide is used only once before being thrown away.  A great deal of this single use plastic ends up in our waterways, and eventually finds its way into the ocean.  80% of marine litter is a product of land based sources (coming from activities on land) including many familiar single use plastic items such as carrier bags and straws. 

Upstream Battle - Keep Scotland Beautiful

Coming soon - a showcase campaign focusing on the Clyde to stop marine litter at its source.  Sign up for campaign updates and help stop litter's journey from source to sea.

Join the upstream battle.

Low Carbon Skills - Never Refuse to Reuse

A film produced as part of the Low Carbon Skills - Textiles Resource. Thank you and well done to the S4 pupils at Kirkcaldy High Schoo who produced this film

Watch Never Refuse to Reuse

UN Environment Programme - Beat Plastic Pollution

While plastic has many valuable uses, we have become addicted to single-use or disposable plastic — with severe environmental consequences. This World Environment Day, it’s time for a change. There are so many things that you can do – from asking the restaurants you frequent to stop using plastic straws, to bringing your own coffee mug to work, to pressuring your local authorities to improve how they manage your city’s waste.

Find out how you can beat plastic pollution.

The Final Straw

A campaign for a plastic straw free Scotland and a crackdown on all single use plastics. The petition calls on:  
  • Businesses to stop giving out plastic straws unless requested and to make sure all straws are biodegradable
  • Customers to say no to unnecessary plastic straws in drinks
  • UK and Scottish Governments to ban plastic straws in Scotland

Read more about the petition and reasons for eliminating single use plastics.

Helen Graham - Plastic Fantastic: The Musical

Plastic Fantastic? is a musical that tells the story of plastic on this planet, romping through the decades from the invention of Bakelite over 100 years ago through its development during the two world wars, the excitement around innovative design and the mass production of plastic after the second world war. It charts the subsequent explosion of the plastics industry alongside the beginning of ecological awareness and the recycling movement and goes on to acknowledge the unacceptable levels of plastic waste pollution we are facing in the 21st century, asking what can be done to improve the situation or if it’s too late. It ends with a message of hope and determination to bring change.

Helen Graham (author and composer of Plastic Fantastic? the musical) has kindly made the musical freely available for use.


Curriculum-linked resource



Trailer (video)

Full performance (video)

Schools Programme Resources - Volvo Ocean Race Education

The world's most extreme race is putting sustainability at its heart and is focusing on taking action to ‘Turn the Tide on Plastic’ – the rapidly growing and critical problem of plastic pollution in the ocean, highlighted by the United Nations Clean Seas campaign. Through this programme, pupils will discover the excitement of sailing through the Volvo Ocean Race, the importance of the ocean and how ocean plastic pollution is damaging our blue planet. Resources are FREE to download, and available in five languages.

Browse Volvo Ocean Race Education Course Materials

CBBC Newsround Guide - Why is Plastic a Problem

A great guide to the plastic problem featuring a video report from the plastic busting Eco-Committee from Damers First School in Dorset.

Read more about why plastic is a problem and watch the video.

Sky Ocean Rescue

Launched in January 2017, Sky Ocean Rescue aims to shine a spotlight on the issues affecting ocean health, find innovative solutions to the problem of ocean plastics, and inspire people to make small everyday changes that collectively make a huge difference. Full of videos, resources and stories on how you can #PassOnPlastic. 

Download resources and watch videos.

The Facts About Plastic - Plastic Oceans

Plastic Oceans Foundation engages people of all ages, in all social situations, to understand the danger of continuing to perceive plastic to be disposable.  Plastic Oceans tackles this issue through an awareness campaign using film and media – including the documentary feature film, A Plastic Ocean and accompanying resources including The Plastic Inside Us Toolkit and a high level science review for A Plastic Ocean.

Download resources on ocean plastics from Plastic Oceans.

Practical Action - Plastics Challenge

Pupils Investigate the properties of plastics then find solutions to problems caused by plastic waste globally. An exciting new challenge for pupils aged 8-14 years to develop solutions to the problems caused by plastic waste globally.

Download Plastics Challenge activity

Stride Global Citizenship Magazine - Journey of a Plastic Bag

Map the journey of a plastic bag from supermarket to ocean using a photograph sequencing activity.

Download Journey of a Plastic Bag.

Departement Omgeving - Zack's Journey

A great story for Early Years about the journey of a plastic bag from the shop to the ocean. Shared with the kind permission of the Eco-Schools National Operator for Flanders - Departement Omgeving

Read Zack's Journey

Food Waste

According to Zero Waste Scotland, throwing good food away costs the average person in Scotland around £200 a year, and the average household £460. Across the United Kingdom, we throw away 19% of all the food we buy: 7 million tonnes of it every year.

Throwing food waste into landfill results in the release of methane and carbon dioxide and contributes to climate change. This is one of the reasons the Scottish Government has set a target of reducing food waste 33% by the year 2025. Eliminating food waste would save 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide – the same as taking a quarter of all cars off UK roads.

In some local authorities, food waste is collected for anaerobic digestion, producing biogas which can then be burned to produce electricity or heat. Another way to deal with food waste is by composting it with garden waste.

In 2015, we supported pupils to create statements for a draft European Food Waste Charter through Don’t Waste Our Future - a two year development education and awareness project directed at European young people and local authorities to raise awareness of topics around food waste and the right to food. Pupils produced campaign resources and posters with help from 999Design that could be useful for your own food waste campaign.

Don't Waste Our Future

A joint European Manifesto of Young People and Local Authorities to promote Food Waste Reduction and the global Right to Food.  Jointly written by young people from across Europe including pupils from four Scottish secondary schools. Young people also produced food waste campaign materials which you can use in your own school.

Have a look at the Food Waste Reduction Charter.

Zero Waste Scotland - Food Waste Monitoring Toolkit for Schools

Toolkits for your catering team and for teachers and pupils. The catering team toolkit is for monitoring kitchen waste (preparation waste, spoilage and unserved meals). The teacher and pupil kit is for monitoring plate waste from the canteen.

Download the Food Waste toolkit and get your waste sorted.

Zero Waste Scotland – Love Food Hate Waste Education Pack

Through a variety of engaging and easy to use inter-disciplinary lessons your learners are given a voice in the fight against  food waste and will further understand this significant problem facing our world today. They are able to contribute directly in a positive and tangible way to reducing the amount of food we throw away.

Download the Love Food Hate Waste Education pack.

The Pod - Waste Week

Runs between 5th - 9th March, or choose dates that suit you.

Get your students involved in an exciting, informative and topical campaign to help raise awareness and hopefully reduce waste at your school.  PLUS – there’s a limited number of free resource packs containing stickers, posters and infographics for the first schools to sign up.

Visit jointhepod.org to sign up 

Reducing, Reusing and Recycling

Zero Waste Scotland - Resource Efficiency Pledge

Zero Waste Scotland have produced a Resource Efficiency Pledge for businesses which contains lots of great ideas that you could use within an education setting to plan action. 

Take the Resource Efficiency Pledge.


Zero Waste Scotland - Schools Resource Efficiency Programme

Learn how to save energy and money in schools, with this e-module for teachers. Test your eco-knowhow and swot up on solutions – from scrap paper to switch-offs to setting up an eco-group.

Visit the Resource Efficiency E-Module

Zero Waste Scotland - Resource Efficiency Guide for Schools

A resource guide to complement the Resource Efficiency E-Module for educators.  Assess and improve your use of Energy, Waste and Water and use Zero Waste Scotland's report card templates to track your progress.

Download the Resource Efficiency Guide

Recycle for Scotland

Recycle for Scotland provides advice and information on how to recycle, helping to protect Scotland's natural environment and make our communities nicer places to live in.

Find out what you can recycle in your area, and how the recycling process works. 

World's Largest Lesson - Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

World’s Largest Lesson introduces the Sustainable Development Goals to children and young people everywhere and unites them in action. 

Download lesson plans, comics and other resources on responsible production and consumption to use in your classroom.

Stride Global Citizenship Magazine - Waste Timeline

Use a timeline to explore the amount of time it takes for a variety of materials to decompose and therefore have varying impacts on the environment.

Download Waste Timeline Activity

RHS Campaign for School Gardening - Build a Plastic Bottle Greenhouse

A popular activity with pupils, build a functioning greenhouse from plastic bottles. A great example of Waste Minimisation and plenty of opportunity for curricular links to maths and design. 

Download instructions to make your own Plastic Bottle Greenhouse.

Textile Waste

According to WRAP UK, 350,000 tonnes of used clothing is sent to landfill in the UK every year.  Clothing decomposing in landfill releases gases that contribute to climate change so textiles should be reused or recycled instead.

Love Your Clothes

Every year an estimated £140 million worth of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK.  There is absolutely no need for any clothing or textiles to make its way into a bin and this is both a significant environmental loss and a missed business opportunity.

Love Your Clothes was launched in 2014 to help inspire and influence consumers to make small conscious changes to reduce the impact of clothes on the environment.  

Find out how you can Love Your Clothes.

Paper Waste

Recycle Devon - Papermaking

What better way to help pupils understand the circular nature of recycling than taking paper from your classroom recycling box, setting up your own ‘recycling factory’ and making beautiful hand-made paper?

Download paper making instructions and watch videos



Waste Minimisation Case Studies

Here are some examples of projects carried out for the Waste Minimisation topic.

St Oswald's Secondary School: Binny the Monster Recycler

After carrying out surveys investigating how many drinks containers are used each day within the school, the pupils decided to make a monster bin to encourage everyone to recycle. The pupils worked with Costa Coffee in Clarkston, who donated cups for the monster bin to be made from.  This sculpture was a finalist in our 2017 art competition on Single Use Plastics at the Gallery of Modern Art Read more.

Calderwood Primary School: How Our Sea Could Look

P2 pupils linked their concern of drinks litter with the impact that this has on marine wildlife. One pupil commented: “If all the fish are sick from eating plastic bottles and we eat the fish then we will have sore tummies”. To raise awareness of this issue, the pupils collected 239 bottle caps from the whole school and created a mosaic of how the sea could look without plastic drinks container waste. This sculpture was a finalist in our 2017 art competition on Single Use Plastics at the Gallery of Modern Art.  Read more.

Mosspark Primary School: A City of Trash

The Eco-Committee focussed on the issue of littered drinks packaging, carrying out Clean Ups and surveys of the area surrounding the school to find out how big the problem is. After speaking to local people, the children decided to make a sculpture of Glasgow from drinks containers, sharing the message that they do not want to see their home turned into “a city of trash”.  This sculpture was a finalist in our 2017 art competition on Single Use Plastics at the Gallery of Modern Art.  Read more.

Sunnyside Primary School: Nae Straw At Aw

As part of their winning entry in art competition on Single Use Plastics we held in 2017 at the Gallery of Modern Art, Sunnyside Primary School sculpted a gannet from milk cartons and papier mache with a transparent stomach full of plastic. They also told us about their brilliant campaign, #NaeStrawAtAw in partnership with Ullapool Primary, which encourages individuals and businesses to reduce their use of plastic straws.  Read more.

Trinity Primary School

Pupils at Trinity Primary School focused on Waste Minimisation as one of their chosen topics. Through Measuring, they discovered that pupils were creating more food waste than they thought, and so put in place measures to reduce it. Read more.

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