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Database Provider


NowThis Earth


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


Science, Social Studies

Resource Type

  • Videos, 14 minutes, 7 seconds, CC, Subtitles

Regional Focus



YouTube Video

Is Recycling Still Worth It Anymore in 2021?

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  • This video by NowThis Earth breaks down plastic recycling, showing the true social and environmental costs of "recycling" some plastics. 
Teaching Tips


  • This video outlines the environmental injustice of the global plastic recycling system. Much of the plastic that is "recycled" in the United States (except #1 and #2) is shipped to the Global South and may not be recycled.
  • This video is dynamic and features excellent graphics.

Additional Prerequisites

  • This may change the narrative in your classroom or school, showing that plastic recycling is not what you think it is.
  • Students can engage in any number of higher-priority climate actions at school, including advocating for more plant-based food, reducing food waste, or creating no-idle zones to reduce emissions from cars and buses.
  • One way to fix the broken plastic recycling system is simply to consume less plastic in the first place. So if students ask what they can do, suggest a personal action they can take for the climate: buy less stuff.


  • After students watch the video, students could pivot to a different environmental campaign, such as Meatless Mondays or the installation of School Hydration Stations.
  • Students could research local recycling systems to learn what can actually be recycled in their town.
  • Note that paper, cardboard, glass, and aluminum are recycled domestically and are very important to reduce our impacts on the planet.  Students can look to purchase products made from 100% recycled material and can look for paper, glass, and aluminum as alternatives to plastic packaging/items.
Scientist Notes
The video explores the state of global recycling systems and the need to enact laws to stop plastic production and improve waste management. There is no contradiction in the video, and this is recommended for teaching.
  • Social Sciences
    • Economics (K-8)
      • 7.8 Examine how economic decisions affect the well-being of individuals, businesses, and society.
    • Geography (K-12)
      • HS.43 Evaluate how economic globalization and the expanding use of scarce resources contribute to conflict and cooperation within and among countries.
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