A middle school classroom, full of young teenagers, can be an incubator for an exuberant exchange of ideas.

On one occasion, I recall, as a middle school Math instructor, in the midst of a discussion on the x/y coordinate system, one student spontaneously complained about another student depositing a recyclable item in a trash can. Since we probably needed a break from Cartesian Geometry, for a few minutes, there was space for a brief open discussion about recycling. As usual there was a wide variety of opinions about the pros & cons of recycling but no one seemed to actually know the steps involved in the actual process.

Essentially recycling is a process to renew or reuse various forms of waste materials. There is a least a potential two-fold benefit from recycling, that is, reduced usage of new materials and a reduction of various types of pollution. However, the practical reality of a community, or a city, running and maintaining a recycling program must be taken into consideration because the cost-effectiveness of such programs can be challenging.

Our impromptu discussion, in our Mathematics class, would eventually morph into a fascinating science project that was initiated by one of the school’s science teachers. She created a class project that followed the entire chain of events for the local recycle program in our small Southwestern city. It was discovered that the program received a subsidy from a local tax on the monthly refuse bill of our local residents.



Recycling is not a new phenomenon rather it has existed, in some form, usually an informal/unofficial one, since the beginning of human civilization. It seemed natural and practical to simply reuse or renew some of our resources. However, there are now new wrinkles that are unique to our contemporary society. There has arisen a new set of considerations including the realities of recyclates, e-waste, and oceanic gyre pollution.

Recyclates are raw materials that result from recycling. These are delivered to re-manufacturing facilities. The quality of the recyclates and the efficiency of overall recycling chain, from recycler to the re-manufacturer, is important. Selling recyclates to foreign sources can also create potential problems because different countries can have different standards of waste/pollution regulation.

E-waste, which is a very recent condition, is waste related to electronic devices and batteries. Special procedures are needed for disposal and/or recycling of this form of waste.

Oceanic gyres are the water current systems in the large oceans on our planet. Because of oceanic currents, the waste and pollution dumped into oceans, marine debris, can collect in great islands of waste within our ocean areas.




Exuberant new technology and new thinking, from young people, could be the source of innovative approaches to issues of global recycling and pollution. One example, of new youthful thinking, is the work of Boyan Slat. A Dutch businessman and inventor, he started the Ocean Cleanup organization a few years ago. He has developed and implemented an ocean-bound technology system for ocean cleanup that utilized the oceanic system of currents. The prototype passive system is a series of barriers designed to collect plastic garbage in the ocean. Boyan Stat was 19 years old, a teenager, when he started his organization in 2013. (see: