New peer-reviewed 4-H curricula presents the good, bad and ugly about plastics and waste

More than 381 metric tons of plastic is produced annually. That’s a 200% increase in the amount of plastic that was generated in 1950. Only 8% of plastic is recycled, while 75% goes directly into landfills. A shocking amount ends up in the world’s oceans and waterways. Thanks to a collaboration with the National Science Foundation Center for Sustainable Polymers, Extension educators and 4-H professionals in Minnesota, California and New York developed pilot curricula to introduce youths to the prevalence and impact of plastics in everyday life. Through experiential learning, youths learned the good, the bad and the ugly about plastics. For example, plastic cups are lightweight and durable, therefore reducing the energy needed for transportation. However, the extraction and manufacturing process contributes to climate change, and many plastics are single-use containers that do not easily decompose. The curricula also introduce youthsto the new ways scientists and engineers are working to develop bioplastics to lessen effects on our environment. Youths learn to make their own decisions through observation, asking questions, defining problems, planning and carrying out investigations and communicating. 4-H youths who participated in the pilot reported gaining a better understanding of what materials can and can’t be recycled (89%) and readily came up with ideas about how to care for the environment (86%) and expressed their intent to help family and friends recycle more (91%).

Link to full statement on website: