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The 3 Rs and the Products of the Future

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Overview

Primary School, Secondary School

Biology, Chemistry, Other

biomaterials, Sustainability

English

Overview

Keywords: bio-based products, bioplastics, biomass
Disciplines: biology, chemistry, economics
Age level of the students: primary and secondary (all parts have a main lab activity for primary and one for secondary students)
Time frame: 45 - 90 minutes per activity
Partners: involvement of researchers to present a lesson for the students or visit to an industry that produces bio-based products.

SDG9 industry, innovation and infrastructure SDG 11 sustainable cities and communities SDG12 responsible consumption and production

Go directly to: Bioplastics, Keratin, Cement

Summary

This project is inspired by the need to find more sustainable ways to create everyday products, be it from raw or from recycled materials. The unsustainable impact arising from the daily use of plastics, cosmetics, building materials etc. is highlighted with the aim of cultivating skills such as critical thinking and to engage students in active learning.

The abbreviation “3 Rs” stands for Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. It is important to highlight the unsustainable use of raw materials and fossil fuels in the production of ordinary materials and everyday goods such as cosmetics, plastics and cement.

Ask the authors

 

 

Introductory materials

Questionnaire for the prior assessment of students' understanding

You can do this survey as a paper form or digitally on your platform and adapt the questions to fit your students and your lessons.

Please view and download the survey as pdf here and as word file here.

 

Interactive video about the bioeconomy

An example of community involvement (students cleaning up plastic from a beach)

 

 

Bioplastics – Produce and recycle

Can we live without plastics? Can the 3 Rs approach combat the escalating plastic waste problem? Are biopolymers the solution for a sustainable future?

Through the bioplastics activities, students will learn about polymers, how polymers have become important in our everyday lives and the environmental consequences of their use. They will investigate whether biopolymers can replace synthetic polymers. The project is inspired by the need to use raw materials to create everyday products from recycled materials. It highlights the unsustainable impact of our daily practices, the impact of producing plastic from crude oil and what proportion of CO2 emissions comes from our global consumption of plastics.

The activities emphasise the biological effects of non-degradable plastics in our environment and the negative effects of microplastics. Through the activities, students learn about the necessity of not only changing to biodegradable plastics, but also to use biomass as a starting material to reduce the release of fossilised CO2.

Keratin – What can you do with wool?

Students look at wool as a raw material for bio-based products and implement different chemistry experiments.

Students are introduced to the chemistry of wool. You can dye it using natural colourants, extract keratin to make your own hair conditioner or use it to adsorb metal pollutants in water. Wool is a natural textile fibre that is obtained primarily from the fleece of sheep, some types of goats and rabbits.

A large amount of coarse wool is produced each year in Europe, the disposal of which is a major problem. It is no longer possible to proceed as in the past, when wool was abandoned in the pastures or left to burn slowly, with the consequent release of toxic gases and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The project is designed to re-use wool, which could be a source of pollution if not disposed of properly. The experiments in this part show that you can use wool to create other useful materials.

Cement production – Make cement from mussel shells

The global production of concrete is responsible for 6-8% of the world's total emissions of CO2. Students learn about cement production and investigate how to produce cement from biomaterials

crushing shells
© Science on Stage
Crushing shells to speed up the reaction
test tubes
© Science on Stage
One tube filled with only water, two with added CaCO3
electric burner
© Science on Stage

Authors of The 3 Rs and the Products of the Future: Anders Florén (SE), Iro Koliakou (GR), Maria Zambrotta (IT)

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