Recycling “Rules”!

Solid Waste Lesson Plan: Recycling “Rules”!
(Developed by the York County Solid Waste Authority © 2001) 

Ages:  10 and up
Group Size: Up to 100

Students will learn why they should recycle, what materials can be recycled, and how to prepare recyclable materials for processing. Students will be introduced to Act 101, the state’s Municipal Waste Planning, Recycling and Waste Reduction Act and will be able to identify the eight Act 101 recyclable materials approved for collection in municipal recycling programs.

Students will learn about different recycling methods (curbside and drop-off) and will understand how recycling is conducted in Pennsylvania (especially in York County).

Via an interactive presentation including a short video and hands-on activities, students learn how and why they should recycle. Students test their knowledge by examining a variety of products to determine if they are recyclable.

Overhead projector, screen or blank wall, table, TV/VCR, garbage can or bags, variety of commonly used products. All materials provided by the Authority.

Science, math, government. Discussion, deduction, comparison and contrast, real-life application.

30 minutes to 1 hour (adaptable to grade-appropriate length).

Indoors. Classroom, auditorium or all-purpose room.

Vocabulary Words
Recycling, natural resource, mandate, ordinance, HDPE/PET, source separation, materials recovery facility, conserve, municipal solid waste, curbside recycling, drop-off recycling.

In 1988 Pennsylvania passed Act 101, the state’s Municipal Waste Planning, Recycling and Waste Reduction Act. This legislation requires every county in the state to have a 10-year plan for managing municipal solid waste, mandates that municipalities of specific populations must implement recycling collection programs for their residents, and encourages waste reduction via a variety of methods such as requiring operators of disposal facilities to provide a public recycling drop-off facility.

York County already had an existing long-term plan for municipal waste management in place when the act became law. At that time, the Authority updated the plan and expanded it to encompass a 25-year planning period to make it commensurate with the expected length of operation of the York County Resource Recovery Center (the county’s waste-to-energy facility used for primary management of York County’s household waste).

Thirteen of 72 municipalities in York County were large enough to be mandated to initiate curbside recycling programs. Those 13 municipalities were required to select at least three of eight categories of approved recyclable materials to include in their recycling program. The eight Act 101 approved recyclable materials include clear and colored glass, aluminum, steel and bimetallic cans, newsprint, high-grade office paper, corrugated paper and plastics.

Preparation of these materials for collection is easy–anyone can do it! Glass and plastic containers should be thoroughly rinsed and placed in the recycle bin without their lids (lids are sometimes made of non-recyclable materials). Rinsing containers helps keep pests and neighborhood pets from snacking on leftovers and posing a health and safety problem either to themselves or to sanitation workers.

Be certain plastic containers are recyclable. To check, turn the container over and look for the recycling symbol (three arrows forming a triangle). Inside the recycle symbol is a number. Most municipalities collect only plastics with the numbers 1 or 2 printed on them. The numbers describe the chemical make-up of the material used to make the plastic container.

Although plastics come in numbers ranging from 1 to 7, the reason they can’t all always be recycled is because there may not be a processing facility available that can recycle that material, or a viable “end-user” who wants the product. If you are unsure of which numbers you can recycle, call your municipal office or the Authority. Cans should also be thoroughly rinsed and the lids placed flat inside the can. Paper recyclables should be tied in a bundle with string or placed in a paper bag to prevent creating a litter problem.

In York County, the average citizen disposes of 3-5 pounds of garbage a day. With a population of more than 380,000, that amounts to more than 1 million pounds of garbage being generated in York County EVERY DAY! Recycling helps reduce the overall waste stream that must be managed, conserves natural resources (trees, fossil fuels, water) and enables us to reuse a product we already have on hand. Today, 37 additional municipalities have voluntarily enacted ordinances requiring their residents to recycle and one has been mandated under the parameters of Act 101 to recycle. A total of 51 municipalities representing more than 80 percent of our county population now offer curbside recycling to their residents. In addition to community and local government commitment to recycling, all the ash residue from the York County Resource Recovery Center is also recycled into an aggregate used in a variety of construction applications.

Using the overheads and provided materials, a speaker will combine a visual presentation with audience participation to communicate key areas of emphasis. Those key areas emphasize waste management, recycling, waste reduction, waste regulation and a demonstration of how to recycle.

Evaluation Tool
Quiz questions (and answers) will be provided for teacher use. Students will be able to describe the purpose of Act 101, identify what types of materials can be recycled and demonstrate how to prepare recyclable materials for collection. Students should be able to describe the environmental benefits of recycling.


  1. Schedule a tour of a local Materials Recovery Facility. To schedule a tour, call Modern Landfill & Recycling at 717-246-4624, or York Waste Disposal Company at 717-845-1557.
  2. Create an informational bulletin board or window display depicting the Act 101 recyclable materials.
  3. Create an advertising campaign to convince non-recycling municipalities to implement a recycling program for their residents.
  4. For class discussion: What are the challenges of starting a recycling program in a community?
  5. Create a “top ten” list of reasons why people should recycle.

How to Get this Lesson Plan Into Your Classroom
This lesson is available at no cost to any York County school or civic group and is presented by a member of the Authority’s Education Center staff. All materials and handouts associated with this lesson plan are provided by the Authority. Call 717-845-1066 to schedule a presentation of this lesson plan for your class or assembly program.