Recycling: Past, Present, and Future

Students identify the challenges of waste and recycling.

Author: Recycle Rally

Recycle Rally

Recycle Rally has partnered with EcoRise to bring you a comprehensive curriculum that encourages students in middle and high school to solve real world waste and recycling challenges. This page describes the first of five modules in the curriculum. Any of the lessons below can accompany a unit on waste and recycling, as they do not need to be completed together.


Click here to access the entire Sustainable Waste: Rethinking Waste & Recycling for the 21st Century curriculum.


Module 1: Recycling in the Past, Present, and Future

In this module, students gain an overview of key recycling and waste management topics via four sessions. Estimated time needed: Four 55-minute sessions, plus 24-hr. trash collection period. All lessons are mapped to CCSS, NGSS, EFS, and TEKS standards.


Session 1

In Session 1, students look at different types of trash and challenges related to disposing of and recycling human-made materials. Students then spend 24 hours collecting all of the (nonhazardous) wastes they personally generate. At the end of the 24 hours, they inventory and log their results, identity different types of plastics, and reflect on and discuss their waste habits. Students then use their collected results to estimate the amounts of waste produced and recycled at city, state, national, and global levels. Finally they discuss how at volume, waste can create complex waste issues.


Session 2

Then, students identify each stage in the life of a plastic bottle and potential challenges at each stage.


Session 3

In the third session, students research the history of recycling and use their findings to write an op-ed about the future of recycling.


Session 4

Finally, students recreate a town hall to get a sense of the complexities associated with creating effective recycling policies.


How to Access the Sustainable Waste Curriculum

  1. Click the link “Get Curriculum” below.
  2. Select “I am a new user,” then enter your email address in the Username field. If you already have access to this page, simply sign in with your email address and password.
  3. Enter your full name and then check the “I agree” box.
  4. Click on “Enroll in Course.”
  5. Check your email for a link to set your password.

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