How is it packaged

How is it packaged

1. Real Life Situation

altWhen I wake up in the morning the only thing I can think about is my breakfast. It is hard to decide what to eat because I have lots of choices. Will I eat toast? Maybe cereal? Or eat cheese and meat like in some countries? Let's look in the cupboard and see what's inside. It is really important for me to eat a BIG breakfast as I have a lot of things to do today.

By lunchtime my stomach is rumbling....(growl growl growl). I look forward to lunch because it means that I can talk with all my friends whilst eating. My lunch looks great. Some of my friends like to eat lots of chips for their lunch, others like to eat an apple. I wonder how they decide what they eat and where their lunch comes from? Home from school and time for a snack. I have so much to choose from....an orange, a banana, crisps, chocolate.


"Dinner time!"  Urrrrgh...not green stuff AGAIN. Why are all the 'good' things green? Can't we eat out instead?

Time for bed, I wonder what I will eat tomorrow?

2. Introduction

altMy lunch comes in packages of all shapes, sizes and materials. Packages protect my food and drink and they also provide information about what's inside and the ingredients of the products too. Some packages are more attractive than others.

Every day we throw away our food packaging.  What affect does this have on the environment?

I am thirsty now! I am going to buy some juice. Should I choose a drink in a plastic bottle, paper (cardboard) carton, aluminum can or glass bottle. What are the positive and negative things about each type of container? Is there an alternative? There are so many different choices. Does it matter what choice I make?

3. Task

In a small group of 4-5 you will explore why we package food and what the impact of this packaging might have on the environment.  You will create a poster, collage or power point presentation on the "Positives and negatives of different types of packaging".  The whole class will take part in a debate.

The different activities will help you to collect information, generate ideas and research:

- Different types of packaging: paper, glass, plastic and metal

- What the different ecological symbols on packages mean?

- What we should do with packaging?

- Do we think about packaging when we buy food?

- Should we consider packaging when shopping and why?

4. Activities

Activity 1: Food and its packaging

Activity 2: What is the best type of packaging material?

Activity 3: Debate "What type of packaging is best?"


 Activity 1: Food and its packaging

You will work in a group of 4-5.  Some of the tasks should be carried out individually others in your group.

Part 1: What are the different types of packaging?

Working on your own try to find out the following: Why is food and drink packaged? You may find some ideas here and here What different types of packaging are there? Why should we think about buying food and drink with less packaging and recyclingthe packages that we have? In your group explore the following: >What are the different types of eco symbolson packaging? What do they mean? You can find some helpful information here, here and here. >
Using the Eco Symbol tableshow the different eco symbols that you have found and explain their significance.




Part 2: Packaging and my family

You will investigate what types of packaging your family usually buys: For one day collect all the packaging your family uses and store it in a bag. At the end of the day spread all the collected packaging out and then try to sort it into different types of material for example: paper, plastic, metal or glass. Use the My family food packaging tableto record each type of packaging you have collected and the number of each type of material. What is the percentage of each type? Are there any eco symbols on your packaging? How much could be recycled or reused?



Carry out a follow-up study at home and interview your family, use the Family Questionnaire to help you. You can add your own questions to the questionnaire.


Bring the results table and questionnaire back to school so that you can share your findings with the rest of your group.  As a group review all the results and make a joint table reflecting everyones results. You can use the Summary Table and Questionnaire to help you. Look at your results and draw conclusions.
altPart 3: Investigative journalism "What types of packaging are there in our local shop?"

For this activity you will need to wait for your teachers instructions or carry out this activity as homework and visit your local shop or supermarket with your family.

As a group investigate the types of packaging found in your local shop, which products people buy, if and how they are influenced by the packaging. You can use a camera and take pictures to record your evidence. You could also make an audio recording of your interviews.

heck out as many products as possible in the time you have but try to record at least 15. Look at the types of eco and recycling symbols on the packages. Remember that some of these packages will not have these symbols but make sure you record that information as well.Save the data using the Packaging recording sheet . In your group (or with your family) conduct an interview with shoppers, the owners or workers in the local shop. You can use the Journalistic Questionnaire to help you and can add or change the questions during your investigation.


As a group discuss the results and write down your conclusions.  Summarise your findings and make a group report titled "Positive and negative examples of packaging in our local shop".  Include in your report what you have discovered about peoples shopping habits in relation to the packaging of the items they buy. Finally put forward ideas or proposals that you have come up with about how things should be packaged.


 Activity 2: What is the best type of packaging material?

Each group will choose one type of packaging material to study and will have the task of researching and finding as much information as possible about that particular type of material.

Choose your material and then follow these steps:

Research: Collect information and record your findings (you can use the worksheets provided to help guide your research)

Present: Create a poster, collage, leaflet or powerpoint presentation about your chosen packaging material.  Include the benefits and negatives of your type of packaging.



You can record your findings using the Investigating glass worksheet .

You can read information about glass packaging here and here.In some countries people are encouraged to return their bottles for reuse with a 'bottle deposit scheme'. Watch this news item for more information and to hear what people think about introducing it to the UK

Watch a short film about glass recycling and read about the environmental impacts and what some of the problems and issues are. 

Learn more about the recycling process here and here.




You can record your findings using the Investigating plastic worksheet.

You can read information about plastic packaging here and here and information about the different types of plastic here and also here.Watch this video about the life cycle of a plastic bag and read how you can reuse and recyclethem.


Why should we recycle plastic? Information is provided here to help you

Watch a short film about recycling plastic bottles and read about the environmental impacts and what some of the problems and issuesare.


Watch this short film about recycling more household plastic packaging.



You can record your findings using the Investigating paper worksheet.

You can read information about paper packaging here and here.Why should we recycle paper? Watch this short film about reycling paper and read about the environmental impactsand what some of the problems and issues are.




altMetal (aluminum, steel)

You can record your findings using the Investigating metal worksheet .

You can read information about metal packaging here and here. Watch a short film about recyclings aluminium cans and read about the environmental impactsand what some of the problems and issues are.


Find some facts about aluminium here and here



 Activity 3: Debate "What type of packaging is best?"



As a class you will take part in a debate based on the scenario below:

You are thirsty! You are going to buy some juice. What packaging do you prefer and why? What are the pros and cons of each choice?

The choice is plastic, paper (cardboard), aluminum or glass.

Follow the instructions and then wait for your teacher's instructions for the debate.





Work in a small group of 3 or 4.  Each group will be given a particular packaging material to discuss and then present (this is likely to be the material you investigated in Activity 2).

Nominate 2 representatives in your group to present your case in the debate.  Remember you will need to discuss the positives and the negatives of your particular material.

Each group will have 2 minutes to present their arguments.

Once the debate has started the rest of the class will be observers and will record points they think are important using the Debate Table .

A moderator will record all the main points on the board.

Once all the representatives have presented there will be a 5 minute discussion break with the rest of their group (who have been observers) to correct , add or change their arguments for the second stage of the debate.

Each group will have another 2 minutes to present any additional arguments.

Once all the representatives have presented, the voting process starts.

All observers must rank the different packaging materials on a scale of 1 - 4 (where 4 is the best material for packaging).

The moderator will total and calculate the points and then present the results.


Discuss the following:

The result of the debate.

Other alternatives to the packaging material presented in the debate.

Guidance and advice to shoppers about packaging when buying goods (you can use this Advice worksheet to help).

5. Reflection

Write down three things you have learnt about different types of food and drink packaging.

Write down three things you have learnt about how the packaging and materials used for packaging can impact the environment.

Write down two things you would like to find out more about.

Choose one of these things, how could you find out more about it?

Food and Drink learning wall

6. Conclusion

7. Teacher notes

Age:  11 - 12

Time: 2 hours 30 min.

Activity 1: Food and its packaging (45 minutes).

Part 1: What are the different types of packaging?
Part 2: Packaging and my family
Part 3: Investigative journalism "What types of packaging are there is our local shop?"

Activity 2: What is the best type of packaging material (60 minutes)

Activity 3: Debate "What type of packaging is best? (45 minutes)

Curriculum / subject (cross-curricular links):

Design and Technology

Learning objectives:

By the end of the quest all students will:

  • Recognise that there are different types of packaging and know the various signs and symbols for recycling packaging.
  • Distinguish between packaging that can be reused and recycled and packaging that produces waste.
  • Draw conclusions about the impact of different types of packaging on the environment in the short and long term.
  • Explore and realise the importance of their own consumer behaviour in terms of packaging.
  • Gather and select important information and report in a structured, graphic or visual form the information and data they have collected.
  • Analyse the information, draw conclusions and propose ideas / alternatives for the future.
  • Present the information in an appropriate way in order to inform and educate others.

    Teacher assesment framework