Plastics challenge - Practical Action


Links to Practical Action's plastics challenge, where students develop products from recycled objects, as a possible way of tackling environmental problems caused by plastic waste.
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A link to a teacher guide, power point, poster and CREST passport for the Practical Action plastics challenge.


This challenge, from Practical Action, has pupils working individually or in teams, to develop a product that can be easily made from recycled plastic. Students can then produce maketing plans, as well as videos showcasing their products- which can be entered in Practical Action's plastics challenge competition.

If you teach primary science, click the headings below to find out how to use this resource:

Skill development

Children will develop their working scientifically skills by:

  • Asking their own questions about scientific phenomena.
  • Selecting and planning the most appropriate ways to answer questions, including:
    • Researching using a wide range of secondary sources of information.
    • Carrying out comparative and fair tests.
  • Drawing conclusions and raising further questions to be investigated, based on their data and observations.
  • Using appropriate scientific language and ideas to explain, evaluate and communicate their methods and findings.

Learning outcomes

Children will:

  • Identify and compare the suitability of a variety of everyday materials, including plastic.

Concepts supported

Children will learn:

  • That the properties of materials, in this case different plastics, will affect their suitability for different purposes.

Suggested activity use

This resource provides a range of activities that you can use with a whole classes to investigate the properties and uses of different plastics. The activities fit in well within materials and properties topics. 

Alternatively, due to the time-consuming nature of the activities, you may wish to use the Plastics Challenge as part of an enrichment day.

As the activities vary in complexity, you can differentiate by having different groups of children carry out different activities.

Practical considerations

Various materials will need to be provided to children in order for them to carry out the various activities.

Some of the activities, such as making bioplastics, will require intensive supervision or may be better done as a demonstration.