Daily Video

June 24, 2021

Daily News Lesson: Recycling plastic has been an uphill challenge. Could chemical recycling change that?


Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions below. To view the full video and transcript, click here

Summary: Plastic pollution is a global threat to our lands and seas. Since World War II, we have created over 9 billion cubic tons of it, yet its recycling remains extremely limited. As part of our “Breakthroughs” series, Miles O’Brien looks at new ideas and innovations, such as chemical recycling and urban mining, that may enable better recycling in the future.

Discussion questions: 

Warm up questions: Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

  • How much does the EPA estimate is actually recycled of all the plastic we produce?
  • Why does so much of our recycling go to landfills?
  • Who is George Huber?
  • What is the problem he is trying to solve? 
  • Where is plastic processed in the pyrolysis process described?
  • When did China stop accepting and recycling our plastic?

Focus questions:

  1. This piece illuminates the problems with recycling currently in America. If there are so many issues with recycling, why do you think people continue to use the system we have today?
  2. Did this report make you rethink your own family’s approach to recycling? If so, in what ways? What are some steps you can take to use plastic resources more sustainably?

Media literacy: Who is the target audience for this piece? Is it produced in any sort of way that would prevent it from reaching a certain audience? 

Dig Deeper: 

  • To learn more about plastics, microplastics, and the plastic problem in the US, check out this article about the US Recycling industry and this page on microplastics. 
  • Looking for ways to reduce plastic waste by reusing instead? Check out this NewsHour EXTRA invention lesson.
  • If you have time, you can also check out the PBS NewsHour documentary The Plastic Problem.

This Daily News Lesson was written by EXTRA intern Cecilia Curran and EXTRA’s Victoria Pasquantonio. Curran is a sophomore at Amherst College.

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