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Earth Day Coding Recycling Sorting Activity

This Earth Day coding recycling sorting activity teaches children how conditional statements and variables work and how logical reasoning plays a role in learning how to recycle common household materials!

The objective of this environmental education activity is to learn basic conditional coding while helping students learn common household objects can be reused or recycled.

According to the EPA, plastic bottles are the most recycled plastic product in the United States as of 2018. When you recycle just 10 plastic bottles, you can save enough energy to power a laptop for more than 25 hours!

A picture of earth day recycling sorting activity.

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Common Household Recyclables

Some common household recyclables include: aluminum cans, plastic containers marked with a #1 or a #2, #3-#7 plastics, glass containers or bottles, newspapers and magazines, cardboard, steel containers, tires, and yard waste.

You can even recycle appliances like air conditioners, clothes washers and dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, stoves, ovens, dehumidifiers, furnaces, boilers, and water heaters.

What items can you reuse instead of recycling or throwing away?

At our house, we like to evaluate whether we can reuse items before we put them in the trash. These aren’t always things that are recyclable.

We reuse plastic food containers, cardboard boxes, toilet paper tubes, broken crayons, glass jars, caps from milk jugs and soda bottles, and so much more.

We’ve even turned plastic water bottles into beautiful sun catchers for our backyard!

You’ll also love: Free Fitness Coding Conditional Statements Card Game!

if else if conditional coding sorting recyclables activity

The If-Then Else Statement

This activity teaches students how conditional statements and variables work. A conditional statement tells a computer to follow a set of instructions, but only under a specific condition.

When a condition is TRUE, the computer follows one set of instructions. If the condition is not met, the computer follows a different set of instructions. Check out this handy If-Else Statement infographic below.

If-Else Statement

The If-Then statement is a conditional statement that runs when a condition is TRUE. For example, IF the traffic light is green, THEN drive.

The If-Then Else Statement is a conditional statement that runs an alternative code if the statement is FALSE. For example, IF the traffic light is green THEN drive, ELSE idle.

This activity uses the If-Else-If statement, which is a little more difficult than a simple If-Then statement or If-Then-Else statement.

If-Else-If Recycling Sorting Activity

The If-Else-If statement is used to execute a code from multiple conditions. This is also called a “multi-path decision statement”.

Basically, the If-Else-If statement is a chain of If-Else statements in which each IF statement corresponds with an ELSE IF statement. This all ends with an ELSE statement.

For a fun twist, try this activity with actual recyclable items and sort them into piles!

A picture of a recycling sorting activity to learn coding.

You can also use this Earth Day activity with pre-assembled kits that have boxes and recyclable items ready to be sorted.

How to Sort Recyclables Like a Computer

For the purpose of this activity, we will be following an If-Else-If ladder statement to sort recyclables.

First, print out the activity (grab this for free at the end of the post!) and cut out all of the cards and recycling bins.

A picture of recycling sorting activity pieces.

Follow the graphic below to sort your recyclable cards like a computer would sort them beginning at the green circle at the top.

if-else-if conditional coding diagram for recycling sorting activity

If the condition (in the diamond shape) is true, follow the line to the right and execute the command in the block attached to the line.

If the condition is false, follow the line down to check the next condition.

If you make it through all of the If-Else conditions, you will hit the remaining Else block at the end. This block has a command to execute for all remaining cards that do not meet the conditions above.

We used the Else block at the end to sort our tires and microwave, since we felt that they didn’t fit in the regular household recycling.

Adapt for All Ages

This activity is adaptable for all ages and abilities. To simplify this activity to beginning kid coders or preschool and kindergarten students, the activity is easily converted into an If-Then-Else statement.

A picture of five recycling bins in various colors.
A picture of two recycling bins.

IF it can be reused, THEN reuse, ELSE recycle

This one is perfect for pre-kindergarten or kindergarten students. To complete the activity, students sort through the household recyclable cards and determine which cards can be reused for projects or in the house.

If they can be reused, then they are moved to a reuse pile. For this activity, you’ll end up with just two piles – objects that can be reused and objects to be can be recycled.

A picture of recyclable object cards.
A picture of recyclable object cards.
earth day coding activity

Earth Day Activities

Find more fun and educational Earth Day activities!

Meet Toni, the Maker Mom behind Our Family Code

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Hey there, I’m Toni! I’m a software engineer and Maker Mom that finds my joy in unleashing my children’s curiosity by exploring STEAM concepts with my fantastic five!

When I’m not chasing toddlers or raising tweens, you can find me tearing things up and putting them back together over here at Our Family Code.

I am the owner and content creator of multiple educational websites designed to increase access to STEAM & STEM education with a focus on teaching computer science and coding to kids of all ages!

You can also find out more about me by visiting!

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TechyKids Canada

Saturday 13th of March 2021

This is such an interesting activity that would make learning fun for kids and help them to cement their knowledge. Thanks for sharing and explaining it so well. It would help many to get their kids interested in coding.

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