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Plastic Hits the Road

MacRebur founder Toby McCartneyThe road to a greener future may start in northwest England’s Cumbria county, where plastic litter is turning up in an unusual new place: street pavements.

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Trash Sliders

Trash sliders at 2015 ASEE K12 workshopIn this activity, teams of middle school students express their creativity while learning the fundamentals of engineering design, sustainability, and the basic physics of forces and motion by building a vehicle out of recycled trash that is capable of transporting liquid over rough terrain with as little spillage as possible.

Note: This activity can be scaled for high school or upper elementary students.

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Lesson: Life After Trash

Student teams use the engineering design process to create a useful product of their choice out of recyclable items and “trash.” The class is given a “landfill” of reusable items and allowed a limited amount of bonding materials. The activity addresses the importance of reuse and encourages students to look at ways they can reuse items they would normally throw away. Students are further prompted to consider the problems with growing landfills, and efforts by engineers and others to reduce pollution, emissions, and trash production.

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Feature: Warrior Against Poverty

From helping impoverished trash workers in Argentina to transforming the way Canadian engineering students learn, Caroline Baillie has been a tireless champion of fostering social justice through engineering, challenging her colleagues and students to make ethics a core concern in their work.

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Feature: Learning from Blight

Polluting BuilidingFor residents of Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, Blue Mountain is a scar on the landscape and a health hazard. But for 120 sixth graders at Eyer Middle School in Macungie, Pa., Blue Mountain became a laboratory for understanding the nation’s problems with toxic waste and ways to clean it up.

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Feature: Greener & Safer

When garbage piles up in an American city, it’s a nuisance and a health hazard. But at U.S. Army bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s also a security burden. Researchers are devising new technologies to protect troops, including a trash-to-energy refinery. But a solution to roadside bombs remains elusive. An article from ASEE’s Prism magazine.

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Lesson: Trash Talkin’

RecycleIn this activity, students in grades 3-5 collect, categorize, weigh and analyze classroom solid waste. The class collects waste for a week, and then student groups spend a day sorting and analyzing the garbage with respect to recyclable and non-recyclable items. Students will discuss ways that engineers have helped to reduce solid waste.

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Website: Think Green Recycling

The Think Green website engages students in learning about the environment. Materials include teacher and student pages, with standards-based lesson plans, hands-on classroom activities, and at-home extensions, as well as video clips and printable posters.

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Lesson: The Energy of Decay

In this lesson, students in grades K-5 learn how decaying organic matter can be harvested as a source of energy. After brainstorming as to how old metal, plastic, and paper can be a resource, students find uses for an old piece of fruit. They view an informative video on harvesting organic material for energy. Once their their investigation is complete, students observe conditions that promote the most rapid decay of a piece of fruit.

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