Last updated: July 14, 2020

Math Skill: Interpreting bar graphs

Science Subject: Protection of Earth’s resources

Grade level: 4th5th grades

Area level: National-scale

Environmental Area: Recycling

Purpose: Understand recycling rates of plastic bottles, aluminum cans, glass bottles, and steel cans in the United States and develop awareness of waste reduction



About 35.2% of wastes discarded from us were either recycled or composted in 2017 in our country. Of recyclable materials, lead-acidbatteries, corrugated boxes, and steel cans were recovered at the highest rate, at 99.1%, 88.4%, and 70.9%, respectively.  On the other hand, the recovery rate of PET bottles and glass containers was low, only at 29.1% and 33.9%, respectively. (Source: U.S. EPA, 2019).

Recycling helps conserve both natural resources and space in our landfills.  Recycling also saves energy and water and prevents pollution caused by manufacturing of products from raw materials.  Furthermore, recycling decreases emissions of  greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change.


Environmental impacts from municipal solid waste (MSW)



The purpose of this activity is to enhance students’ skills in interpreting bar graphs, using the recycling rate of beverage containers in the United States in 2017. The information was obtained from“Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: 2017 Fact Sheet” prepared by the U.S. EPA  in November 2019. Plastic bottles include both PET and HDPE bottles.

worksheet & answer key

Math Skill: Interpreting bar graphs

Using the bar graph that shows what percentages of plastic bottles, aluminum cans, glass bottles, and steel cans were recycled in the United States in 2017, students are asked to read the graph.



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