University of the Balearic Islands (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2019 Proceedings
Publication year: 2019
Pages: 6389-6397
ISBN: 978-84-09-14755-7
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2019.1538
Conference name: 12th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 11-13 November, 2019
Location: Seville, Spain
One of the most bothersome problems we are currently facing at the beginning of the XXI century is the huge amount of residues produced every day. Likewise, the way of life is also running out most of the Earth’s resources. To this end, one of the most promising targets at the University level is to train the experts of the future. Unfortunately, most of the science curriculums in Spain do not cover the separation and recycling of waste, nor the recovery of raw material from used goods. In order to shed a bit of light on this problem, we designed a bunch of problems-based experiments to be performed with undergraduate students from chemistry, physics and agriculture engineering with the objectives of:
(i) raising their awareness of environmental consequences of the lack of sorting and recycling garbage and
(ii) introducing a new active learning methodology through different activities related to this topic.

In particular, different groups of students were assigned with one type of waste: paper, oil, plastic, aluminium or electronic waste, with which they had to design by themselves an activity to sort and recycle the abovementioned substances and materials. These activities allowed undergraduate students to learn the science behind separation and recycling and more precisely the importance of the chemical composition and the physico-chemical properties of residues on these processes. That is, the polymers’ chemistry for the separation and recycling of plastics, the intermolecular forces in paper recycling, the saponification and transesterification reactions for the recycling of vegetable oils for the production of soap and biodiesel, the metallurgy of the recycling of aluminium beverage cans, the redox processes for the recovery of metal ions from electronic waste, etc. These activities have not only expanded undergraduate students’ knowledge on the fundamentals of different scientific disciplines but also have improved their attitude towards a proper separation and recycling contributing in this way to a better World.

Additionally, the most interesting activities were selected to be prepared and presented under a broad topic entitled “At the UIB, we all recycle” at the annual Science and Technology Fair “Ciència per a tothom 2019”, which has been organized by the University of the Balearic Islands over the last few years. There, the same students which designed the original experiments, behaved as teachers for the visitors, viz. about 5.000 students from various primary and secondary schools in the island of Mallorca (Spain).
Circular economy, sustainable development, separation of residues, recycling, chemistry in everyday life, active learning, non-formal learning.