Unit Waste & Recycling

Colorful recycling trash containers for recycling and disposal of waste.
Colorful recycling trash containers for recycling and disposal of waste.
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Where does trash go when it's thrown away? In this unit, students explore solid waste management and the value of 3RC: reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost. Students sort materials as recyclable and non-recyclable as they learn about the processes and pitfalls of landfills. They learn how engineers are designing low-cost packaging that also has a low environmental impact, and how some engineers reuse old materials while designing new buildings.

Engineering Connection

Engineering is involved in all processes of waste management and recycling. Civil, mechanical, and environmental engineers work together to use reuse old materials and use recycled materials in new buildings. Chemical engineers design environmentally-friendly recyclable materials for packaging. Environmental engineers develop new technologies for landfills where methane from compostable materials is collected and used to generate electricity.


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Unit Schedule

Suggested activity order:

More Curriculum Like This

Upper Elementary Lesson
3RC (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Compost)

Students expand their understanding of solid waste management to include the idea of 3RC: reduce, reuse, recycle and compost. They look at the effects of packaging decisions (reducing) and learn about engineering advancements in packaging materials and solid waste management.

Upper Elementary Lesson
Biorecycling: Using Nature to Make Resources from Waste

By studying key processes in the carbon cycle, such as photosynthesis, composting and anaerobic digestion, students learn how nature and engineers "biorecycle" carbon. Students are exposed to examples of how microbes play many roles in various systems to recycle organic materials and also learn how ...

Upper Elementary Lesson
Trash Materials Investigation: What Will Biodegrade?

Students investigate what types of materials biodegrade in the soil, and learn what happens to their trash after they throw it away. They learn about the concepts behind landfills and compost piles. In an associated activity, students create their own miniature landfills—a hands-on way to learn the ...

Upper Elementary Lesson
Solid Waste Takes Over

In this lesson, students explore solid waste and its effects on the environment. They collect classroom trash for analysis and build model landfills in order to understand the process and impact of solid waste management.


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Last modified: November 17, 2020

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