Get in the Technology Loop!
A Look at Technology, the Environment, and You
sponsored by: HP Invent
Meets National Standards

Photo credits:
Header swoop and sidebar throughout: circuit board: © Bananastock/Alamy; leaves: © MedioImages/age footstock, inc. Homepage: girl: © Rubberball Productions; computer: © Copyright 2006 Hewlett-Packard Development Company; image on screen: © Darrell Gulin/Photodisc/getty Images. Lesson 1: circuit board inset: © The Image Bank/Getty Images. Lesson 2 : circuit board inset: © David H. Wells/Corbis. Lesson 3: truck: © Digital Vision/age footstock, inc. Lesson 4: keyboards: © Peter Poulides/Stone/Getty Images.

About This Lesson Plan



Get in the Technology Loop!

When Electronics Are No Longer Useful to Us: Disposing Responsibly




Students will learn:

  • The definition of recycle.

  • About technology solutions to the environmental issues they identify.

  • How to recycle and reuse products responsibly.

  • How to write and revise a report or essay that outlines a technical solution to an environmental issue.

  • To use language to communicate their own ideas and to accomplish their own purposes.


  • Display board (such as a blackboard) and chalk or markers
  • Student reproducible for this lesson (see link below)
  • Pencils


  1. Activity 4: Technology Has a Solution!


  1. Ask students, "What happens to your old cell phone (or computer, printer, or TV) when you upgrade to a new one?" List responses on the board.

  2. Explain to students that over time, technology is discarded when users upgrade or acquire new models, and electronic devices become unwanted. Some people label electronics that have been disposed "e-waste," though there is no accepted definition of the term. E-waste could include any electronic item that has been thrown out.

  3. Students may ask (or you may pose the question to them), "Why can't electronics be recycled, like paper, plastic containers, and metal?" Provide students with a definition of what it means to recycle electronics:

    Recycling electronics involves collecting the electronics that would otherwise be considered waste, sorting and processing their components into resources, and manufacturing those resources into new products. Items such as paper, plastic containers, and metal are typically a single (uniform) material, while electronics are a complex product made up of many different materials that need to be separated in the recycling process.

    Let students understand that some components of electronics may contain substances that make them difficult to recycle—for example, computer monitors and older TV picture tubes contain lead and require special handling at the end of their lives.

  4. Ask students, "Can you think of any other solutions for electronics disposal?" Jot answers on the board. Explain to students that to minimize e-waste, many different solutions are being sought by companies, including new recycling, take-back, or reuse options. They are also developing alternative materials and manufacturing processes.

  5. Tell students that they will investigate how some of those new developments are minimizing e-waste and its impact on the environment. Make and distribute copies of Activity 4, "Technology Has a Solution!" (PDF)

Be an Advocate!

Ask students: "What are the key concerns when disposing or giving/selling your electronic devices?" Answers may include: How it is recycled or disposed; whether personal data are destroyed/erased; where the equipment is processed; whether workers are treated fairly.

Answers to Activity 4:

Answers will vary.

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