Sustainable Waste Curriculum: Rethinking Waste & Recycling for the 21st Century

Inspire your students to solve real-word waste and recycling challenges!

Author: Recycle Rally

Recycle Rally

Recycle Rally is thrilled to introduce our new sustainable waste curriculum, adaptable for grades 6-12 and created in partnership with EcoRise!


About the Curriculum


Sustainable Waste: Rethinking Waste & Recycling for the 21st Century is designed to center students as leaders as they develop and propose solutions to the challenges of recycling and waste management in the United States. Waste is a wide-ranging and deeply relevant topic that engages students with complex environmental stressors that affect social, economic, and environmental systems. This curriculum also gives students practice applying a human-centered design framework, leveraging adaptable activities to design powerful solutions to waste management and other environmental issues.


The EcoRise Design-Thinking framework guides students through a five-step process to recommend innovative design solutions to pressing materials management issues. Stages of this framework include: Identify the Problem, Explore the Issue, Create Solutions, Refine Solutions, and Share Solutions.


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


recycling challenges


In this initial module, students begin to understand and Identify waste challenges. They look at the historical and economic context of waste management in the United States, as well as key stakeholders, public perception of the problem, and current innovations. Students frame the “Identify” stage as they ask themselves: What is the problem we’re trying to solve? Get the full scoop on Module 1 here.


Module 2: Exploring Waste, Equity, and Environmental Justice


environmental justice lesson


In this module, students do research and conduct activities to Explore litter, landfills, and recycling trends in their communities as well as issues related to waste and environmental justice. This phase of the design thinking framework guides students to understand the issues at a deeper level. They will ask: How does this issue show up in my community? How does this issue impact communities differently? What are global implications of local habits and practices? Read more about Module 2 here.


Module 3: The Circular Economy


sustainable waste curriculum


In this module, students enter the Create phase of the design thinking process and investigate sustainable waste management methods. They explore how green businesses, closed-loop practices, and technology solutions create a circular economy in which waste can be repurposed and reimagined. Learn more about Module 3 here.


Module 4: Refining the Solution


sustainable waste curriculum


With this module, students enter the Refine stage as they analyze and improve their design solution.


Module 5: Sharing the Solution


sustainable waste curriculum


With this final module, students learn how to effectively Share their results. They create engaging summaries and presentations about their design solution for project stakeholders.


This series includes:


  • Robust and engaging multi-session modules that encourage awareness, personal development, role-playing, and critical thinking with a range of teaching strategies. Access presentations, videos, activities, assessments, cross-disciplinary strategies, technology integration, and community extensions.
  • Student worksheets that engage students in real-world learning exercises and a design-thinking challenge.
  • Standards alignment with the Cloud Education for Sustainability (EFS) Standards & Performance Indicators, Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).


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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