Questions for “How to recycle ‘nonrecyclable’ plastics”

a photo of a bulldozer on top of a mountain of trash

New research could provide a way to keep certain types of nonrecyclable plastics from ending up in landfills.

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To accompany “How to recycle ‘nonrecyclable’ plastics”


Before Reading:

1. To limit wastes and pollution, scientists recommend reusing and recycling as many materials as possible. What’s the difference between reuse and recycling? Give two examples of each.

2. Many communities already recycle plastic wastes — but not all of them? Why won’t they or can’t they recycle some plastics?

During Reading:

1.  According to the story, how much plastic do U.S. companies make each year?

2.  What are thermoset plastics and how are they made? Based on the story, what does it mean to “cure” these plastics?

3.  Give three widespread uses of thermoset plastics.

4.  Why can’t today’s thermoset plastics be recycled?

5.  What is a vitrimer and how could this technology make thermoset plastics recyclable?

6.  Although Tanja Junkers finds the new technology “very appealing,” she also has some concerns. What are they?

After Reading:

1.  Does recycling mean a plastic won’t harm the environment? Discuss why that’s likely to be true — or may not.

2.  If some plastics are recyclable and others are not, why don’t all companies just use the ones that can be recycled? (Hint: Consider how they are used.)