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Electronics are now a part of everyone’s lives. From TVs, to tablets, to smartphones, we are finding ourselves increasingly reliant on technology to navigate our lives. So, what happens to our devices when we are done with them?

In 2009, Wisconsin passed an electronics recycling law that determines how we handle electronics at end-of-life. This law is the first “product stewardship” law in Wisconsin. This means that electronics manufacturers help cover the cost of recycling old electronics in the state. This is a new approach to waste, and, an excellent introduction to how government can help solve environmental problems.

The educational resources below can help students explore why we should recycle old electronics, how e-cycling works and what “product stewardship” means.

Did You Know?

All schools must either recycle electronics or manage them as hazardous waste. E-Cycle Wisconsin registered recyclers may save schools money on recycling costs. Use this flyer to get ideas on how to choose a recycler. Visit Electronics Recycling Information for Schools to get started at your facility and start your path to becoming a Green and Healthy School in Wisconsin.

Posters

World of Difference poster (WA-1629): Done in anime style with only a few words, the front of this eye-catching poster depicts the life of an electronic device from mining through disposal. The back of the poster is packed with information, discussion questions and prompts for further research.

What Happens When I E-Cycle? poster (WA-1627): This simple, clean poster uses graphics to show the primary steps in the e-cycling process from drop off at a collection site through dismantling to the re-manufacturing of new products (including electronics) using recycled parts. A large arrow helps students follow the process from beginning to re-beginning. Appropriate for all ages.

Why E-Cycle? poster (WA-1628): Photographs of a variety of electronic items without their cases shows the complexity of the high-tech devices we use in our daily lives. Students can see there are useful materials buried in old TVs, computers and cell phones. Text on the poster describes some of the valuable materials that can be re-used when we recycle our electronics, while pointing out some of the toxins that we want to keep out of our landfills. Most appropriate for middle and high school students.

Video

What happens when I e-cycle? [YouTube] This six-minute video takes you inside a high-tech electronics recycling facility to show what happens to electronics after they are dropped off at a collection point. The narrator explains the importance of recycling while video footage shows the process electronics take from arrival at a recycling facility intact to departure from the facility in boxes of shredded, sorted components. Most suited to upper elementary, middle and high school audiences.

Classroom Activities

  • What’s in our electronics? (WA-1673) Through research and categorization students learn about the materials used in making modern electronics and why it is important to recycle them. The activity is intended to take two 45-minute class periods and is aimed at grades 6 to 8. Works well in Environmental and Earth Science classrooms.
  • Whose e-waste is it, anyway? (WA-1731) Students evaluate different forms of product stewardship to individually determine which method establishes the best framework for handling electronic waste. The activity is intended to take two or three 45-minute class periods and is aimed at grades 9 to 12. Complements Environmental Science and Social Studies subject material.
  • How much e-waste? (WA-1730) Students use multiplication, division and averages to estimate the amount of e-waste in their own communities and to learn about electronics recycling opportunities. The activity is intended to take one and a half 45-minute class periods and is aimed at grades 6-8 but can be adapted to younger audiences. Best used in Environmental Science and Math classrooms.

If you would like printed copies or more information on this topic visit E-Cycle Wisconsin Outreach Resources.


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