Questions for ‘New recycling technologies could keep more plastic out of landfills’

piles of plastic at a landfill

Much of the plastic we use goes into landfills because the material is too difficult to recycle into useful new products.

Abdul Raheem Mohamed/EyeEm/Getty Images

To accompany “New recycling technologies could keep more plastic out of landfills


Before Reading:

1.  Does your family or school recycle part of its trash? What items go in the recycling bin? What goes into the trash can?

2.  What do you know about how recyclables are treated after you put them in the bin?

During Reading:

1.  What are the two types of plastic that are most commonly recycled in the United States?

2.  Why is it a problem for recycling that many plastic containers are made of two or more types of plastic?

3.  What did George Huber’s team come up with as a way to deal with plastic mixtures?

4.  What two types of plastic make up the bulk of the world’s plastic trash?

5.  Why is it a problem that plastic items often contain extra non-plastic chemicals?

6.  How did scientists at Carbios redesign an enzyme to break down PET plastic?

7.  How hot does it have to get before polyethylene breaks down?

8.  Describe the method that Susannah Scott came up with to recycle polyethylene.

9.  What are PDKs, and how could they change plastics in the future?

10.  How would a PDK get recycled?

After Reading:

1.  This article presents several technologies that could be used to help keep plastic out of landfills. Which technology do you think might have the biggest impact in that goal? Use evidence from the story and your own research to support your answer.

2.  After reading this story, will your recycling habits change? Why or why not? Explain your answer.

3.  Working with a friend, develop a poster to inform people in your neighborhood about what gets recycled, what usually doesn’t get recycled and what are good recycling practices. Use data from the story to inform your poster. Check, too, with your local recycling center (if there is one) to confirm details on what it actually recycles versus which potentially “recyclable” materials it instead tends to burn or send to landfills.