This unit introduces students to circular economies and their benefits, using lithium-ion battery recycling as a model. Students begin by contrasting the concepts of linear versus circular economies, using several case studies of successful circular economic systems. Then, they dive deep into the life cycle of lithium-ion batteries, including how mining for component minerals impacts the environment and communities, the hazards associated with improper disposal of lithium-ion batteries, and the circular process of properly collecting and recycling lithium-ion batteries from the devices that commonly contain them. Finally, students design and launch a video challenge to be shared over social media, explaining to a target audience of their choosing what they have learned and encouraging viewers to recycle their used electronic devices appropriately.
Use this Unit at a Glance to explore a brief outline of the materials included in this resource.
Unit Driving Question: How can we make our economy more circular, and why does it matter?
Students are introduced to the concept of a circular economy and how it contrasts with the linear economies that prevail for many products. Students connect to these ideas by considering the life cycle of their favorite belonging, learning key aspects of reusing and redesigning products and processes, and engaging with case studies of successful circular economic systems.
Students engage with a variety of multimedia resources to determine the benefits and challenges of using and disposing of lithium-ion batteries. They complete a Circular Economy Analyzer about lithium-ion batteries and create the storyboard and script for their video challenge that comprises the final product for the unit project.
As the culmination of the unit, students leverage what they have learned about recycling lithium-ion batteries and circular economies to peer review, finalize, produce, and present their video challenges for the unit project.
a system of production that extends the lifespan of consumer goods by maximizing reusing and recycling, and minimizing throwing things away.
gathering used materials for recycling or waste disposal.
principle that matter cannot be created or destroyed; it can only change form.
something that can be used up (consumed), such as food or fuel.
process of using goods and services.
the way something is spread out over an area.
recycling material to make a product that is of lower quality than the original.
electronic devices or their parts that have been thrown away.
system of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.
process by which natural resources are extracted and removed from the earth.
gas in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor, and ozone, that absorbs solar heat reflected by the surface of the Earth, warming the atmosphere.
identification of certain actions or items as having greater or lesser relative impacts.
site where garbage is layered with dirt and other absorbing material to prevent contamination of the surrounding land or water.
system where raw materials are collected and transformed into products, which are eventually discarded as waste.
lightweight, high-density rechargeable battery commonly used for electronics.
inorganic material that has a characteristic chemical composition and specific crystal structure.
process of extracting ore from the Earth.
a material that humans take from the natural environment to survive, to satisfy their needs, or to trade with others.
natural resource that exists in a limited supply.
deposit in the Earth of minerals containing valuable metal.
the many ways in which students can share their creative work with peers for constructive feedback and then use this feedback to revise and improve their work.
making or manufacturing of a product from parts or raw materials.
matter that needs to be processed into a product to use or sell.
to clean or process in order to make suitable for reuse.
in the zero-waste hierarchy, modifying how products are produced, sold, and how waste is managed.
resource that can replenish itself at a similar rate to its use by people.
panel or series of panels where sketches are arranged in chronological order; used to prepare for a film, TV show, commercial, etc.
to recycle one or more items to create an object that is worth more than the original product.
material that has been used and thrown away.
process and philosophy that advocates for redesigning products and patterns of consumption with the goal of producing no waste.