Teacher’s Questions for Plant-Powered Plastics


Before reading:

  1. Name five things that are made out of plastic.
  2. Why do you think plastic is used to make so many different kinds of products?
  3. How is plastic different from other materials, such as wood or metal?

During reading: 

  1. Describe polymers.
  2. Does the presence of polymers make plastic strong or weak?
  3. Is plastic’s strength a good thing, a bad thing, or both? Explain.
  4. Name the type of chemical that gives plastic its flexibility.
  5. Name one form of this chemical that is widely used, despite having been linked with serious health problems.
  6. Do plastics occur naturally, or are they manufactured? Name two basic ingredients of plastic. (Hint: think of nonrenewable energy sources.)
  7. Globally, do you think there are thousands, millions or billions of tons of plastic?
  8. List three benefits of substituting plant material for oil and gas in the production of plastics.
  9. Name one advantage of oil-based polymers over plant-based polymers.
  10. At least for now, not all oil-based polymers can be replaced with plant-based polymers. Explain one way that scientists are working to help decompose oil-based polymers.

After reading:

  1. Why do you think phthalates are widely used, even though they have been linked with cancer and birth defects?
  2. Can you think of other nonrenewable products that perhaps could be replaced with renewable materials or methods? (Hint: Think about the different sources of energy.)


1. List four ways that you can reduce your use of plastics.