Recycling in education

Teaching children recycling with 
3D printing

Why we need to change the way we teach children about recycling

Imagine this setting, standard primary school classroom with 10-year-old kids, and the teacher has just handed out some new recycled pencils:

Teacher: "Everyone look at the pencil I have handed out to you, what does it say?"
Student: "I used to be a plastic cup"
Teacher: "That’s correct this was a cup"
Student: "So how is it now a pencil, it doesn’t feel like a plastic cup?"
Teacher: "The plastic cup went to a factory and was manufactured into a pencil"
Student: "Where?"
Teacher: "I don’t know"
Student: "How do they make it?"Recycled pencil
Teacher: "I don’t know, but it is this or the plastic is thrown in a hole in the ground and destroys nature, isn’t this better?"
Class: "We don’t know"                                         

This is of course a very simplified view but an easily imaginable scenario, it is very easy to say this is recycled and recycling is good but it all feels very disjointed as if we aren’t ever really part of the process. Though the bigger issue here is that we aren’t telling the children the problem, we are telling them the solution, giving them no urgency or incentive to change their recycling habits

Teaching children about Recycling via 3D Printing is more effective

Now imagine a slightly different scenario, same class and same students. They get set a piece of Homework by their teacher to go home and to bring in a plastic bottle the next day. They go home and ask their parents for the bottle who of course ask why and the child explains it is for homework. The next day a whole class are sat there with plastic bottles and given the task of chopping their bottle into small pieces. All of these are thrown into the hopper of a Strooder and some colourant is added, each child is then handed a length of filament equal to the amount of material they put in. Then they go through a library of 3D print files on the computer and select what it is they want to 3D print. They select the file and attach a label to their filament saying what to print. The teacher then prints out each one as the children watch and tells them how the printer and the Strooder work and the benefits of recycling. The child then takes home this print and shows their parents.

Child: "This print was a plastic bottle"
Parent: "So how is it now a print it doesn’t feel like a plastic bottle?"
Child: "The plastic cup went through Strooder and was printed into this"
Parent: "Where?"
Child: "At school today"
Parent: "How do they make it?"
Child: "The Strooder makes it into a filament and the 3D printer turns that into a print you choose off of a computer"
Parent: "Well that’s better than throwing the bottle away"
Child: "I know"

3D printing waste plastic

Why we need to teach the importance of recycling

In this scenario the child knows exactly how it is made and has something they can happily show off to other people. The impact here isn’t just the material recycled but the awareness it creates and the attitude that it instils of them being able to recycle themselves. Strooder makes it possible to recycle in the classroom and to truly unlock the environmental impact 3D printing can make. In the UK we use more than 5 billion plastic bottles a year and in the USA they use more than 21 Billion plastic bottles a year. These are just one example of a plastic item that we see as waste. When really we should see it for the precious resource that it is, seeing the value and potential it contains. By educating children with 3D printing and recycling as one, we can get to a world where used plastic is a valuable material not waste


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