With the Recycling Plastics by Density Chemistry Laboratory Kit, students determine the densities of “unknown” plastic samples, identify the unknowns, and learn why sorting discarded plastics helps make recycling more effective.
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The United States produces almost 100 billion pounds of plastics every year, yet only 4% of this amount is recycled. Recycling plastics is a special challenge because of the variety of plastics in everyday use. In this student lab kit, students investigate the composition and properties of plastics and their recycling codes. Students determine the densities of “unknown” plastic samples, identify the unknowns and learn why sorting and separating discarded plastics helps make recycling more effective. The density range for each type of plastic (PETE, HDPE, PVC, LDPE, PP and PS) is estimated using a “sink or swim” method in a series of liquids. In order of increasing density, the liquids tested are corn oil, 35% ethyl alcohol, water, 10% sodium chloride solution and glycerin. An excellent critical-thinking exercise, this activity also helps students discover the fascinating uses and applications of polymers, true “giants” among molecules! Includes reproducible student handouts, detailed background information, complete Teacher Notes with sample data and answers to all questions and all necessary chemicals and consumable supplies.
Complete for 30 students working in groups of three.
Correlation to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
Science & Engineering Practices
Developing and using models
Disciplinary Core Ideas
MS-PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter
HS-PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter
Scale, proportion, and quantity
Structure and function
MS-PS1-1. Develop models to describe the atomic composition of simple molecules and extended structures.
MS-PS1-3. Gather and make sense of information to describe that synthetic materials come from natural resources and impact society.