Human Problem Solvers
Adapted from Recycling: Activities for the Classroom, by Mary Bowman and Herbert Coon, ERIC Clearinghouse for Science, Math, & Environmental Education, Ohio State University
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SUBJECT AREAS: social studies
CONCEPT: Individual citizens should be stimulated to become well informed about recycling developments, problems, management procedures, and ecological principles.
OBJECTIVE: To investigate solutions for a problem in your community.
MATERIALS: chalk board to record solutions
KEYWORDS: citizen, brainstorm
BACKGROUND: Give your students the following information to demonstrate one solution to an environmental problem.
Aluminum was first made available in abundance at economical prices in the early years of this century. Today over 5,000,000 tons are produced each year to be used in countless ways.
Naturally, with a metal that is this widely used in products, some of these are discarded to become part of our solid waste each year. Aluminum lasts so well that actually less than 1% of all solid waste is aluminum. But with 400 trillion pounds of solid waste and garbage each year, the disposal problem is a real one that has not yet been solved in the United States.
More than 20% of the aluminum used today was once in some other manufactured form. And that percentage could grow with more people getting interested in recycling.
Here is how recycling works: collected soda cans, for example, are brought to one of the hundreds of aluminum reclamation centers or to independent scrap dealers who pay for them according to weight. Then this scrap is shredded, put together in large bundles and sent off to aluminum producers. At the producer, the metal is melted and ready to be used again.
Everyone benefits from recycling of aluminum. The collecting group, like the scouts or school team, earns money for its own use or for community service. The landscape is made more attractive by eliminating litter. There is less solid waste to dispose of, and therefore, less polluting of the environment. And, a valuable natural resource has been conserved by reusing it in products that people want and need. Recycling of aluminum saves 95% of the energy that would be needed to make new metal from ore.
PROCEDURE: Now ask your students to think of a solid waste problem in their community and to devise some possible solutions. Students generally have less inhibited ideas than adults and often come up with very creative solutions.
1. How can we recycle other products as successfully as aluminum?
2. Brainstorm about laws, deposits, environmental and economic incentives to encourage people to participate in solid waste solutions.
3. What can we do to make recycling of plastics, batteries, tires, paper, organic materials, and others more successful?
4. Remember if you come up with good ideas, talk to your recycling department about them.
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