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Be Smart


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Social Studies, Economics

Regional Focus

Global, North America, United States


YouTube Video

Recycling Is Broken. Here's How We Can Fix It.

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  • This video explains how misconceptions about recycling can create more waste. 
  • Students will learn that most recycling facilities are equipped to handle very specific types of recyclable materials and that placing non-recyclable or dirty objects in a recycling bin can cause the bin's contents to be put in a landfill. 

Teaching Tips


  • This informative video will inspire students to learn more about recycling in their own community.
  • The video reminds viewers that reducing waste and reusing items are more effective at decreasing the amount of trash than recycling.

Additional Prerequisites

  • This video contains advertisements.
  • The video's content ends at 11:28.


  • Science classes or environmental clubs could research the local recycling requirements and write an article for the school newspaper or parent newsletter with information about recycling specific to their area.
  • Economics classes could discuss why China no longer purchases recyclables from other countries and whether or not there are economic reasons for the United States to invest in processing its own recyclables.
  • Other resources on this topic include this PBS NewsHour video on new technology that could make recycling plastic easier, this video about a woman who used zero single-use plastics for a whole month, and this Vox video on plastic pollution in the oceans.
Scientist Notes
This video talks about the issues facing the recycling industry and offers solutions. This resource is recommended for teaching.

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • Science
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • 5-ESS3-1. Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.
      • MS-ESS3-3. Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
      • HS-ESS3-4. Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.
  • Related Resources


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