Year Five have been using their STEM skills to try to solve a problem linked to the impact of plastic waste around the world. We looked at photographs from Nepal showing a range of people (including children) picking through waste from ‘waste’ tip site on the outskirts of Kathmandu (the capital city of Nepal). The collectors often live in extreme poverty. Throughout the Plastics challenge, we found out how Practical Action’s work in Nepal is supporting waste collectors. When sorting through our plastics, we learnt that different plastics have different symbols, which tells us the polymers that they are made from and whether they can be recycled.
At recycling plants, plastics get sorted by the polymers as it gives the biggest financial return and increases the potential uses for this material after recycling. We discussed how the time items take to decompose will depend on the climate and other environmental conditions in a landfill site.
To put this to the test, we planted some of these items under soil in the school grounds and we will observe their decomposition after a month.
We reminded ourselves about the 3Rs Reduce, Reuse and Recycle and researched the difference between reuse and recycle. Once we had a good understanding of the problems caused by waste plastic, our own challenge began! We had to design and make a product that the Hamro Mahila women’s group in Nepal can make to increase their appeal to international markets.