The Magic of Waste To Energy!

Solid Waste Lesson Plan: The Magic of Waste-to-Energy!

(Developed by the York County Solid Waste Authority © 2001) 

Students will learn about the technology that not only reduces their garbage to a smaller volume of ash, but also recycles it into electricity.

Students will learn where garbage comes from, how much is generated, how recycling impacts the waste stream, types of waste generated, cost of disposal, the importance of environmental controls and regulations, and how a waste-to-energy facility uses garbage as a fuel to generate electricity. Finally, students will discover the surprising secret of what happens to the ash left over from processing their garbage!

Ages:  6 and up.
Group Size:  Up to 350.

Via an interactive presentation, students “tour” the York County Resource Recovery Center (the first waste-to-energy facility in Pennsylvania to use advanced air pollution control technology).

Laptop computer and projector, screen or blank wall. Materials provided by the Authority.

Science, math, language arts. Discussion, deduction, comparison and contrast, real-life application.

30 minutes to 1 hour (adaptable to grade- appropriate length).

Indoors. Classroom, auditorium or all-purpose room.

Using the overheads and provided materials, a speaker will combine a visual presentation with audience participation to communicate key areas of emphasis. Those key areas emphasize recycling, waste reduction, and an illustration of exactly how a waste-to-energy facility operates.

Evaluation Tool:
Students will be able to describe the basics of how a waste-to-energy facility works, understand the environmental benefits of using waste-to-energy to manage garbage, and identify the components of an integrated system of managing waste (waste reduction, reuse, recycling, landfilling, waste-to-energy).


  1. Schedule an actual tour of the York County Resource Recovery Center (Call 717-845-1066 to schedule a visit).
  2. Split the class into three groups. Group 1 represents a landfill operator, Group 2 represents a waste-to-energy facility operator, Group 3 represents a Recycling facility operator. Each group must present an oral argument defending the use of their facility as the “preferred technology” to manage their community’s waste.
  3. Conduct a school (or grade level) survey. Ask people where they think their garbage goes after they set it out at the curb (landfill?, waste-to-energy plant?, recycle center?). Create a bulletin board to post the results and show where their garbage REALLY ends up.
  4. Create a flier advertising what a waste-to-energy facility is and what the benefits are to a community.

How to Get this Lesson Plan Into Your Classroom
This lesson is available at no cost to any York County school or civic group and is presented by a member of the Authority’s Education Center staff. All materials and handouts associated with this lesson plan are provided by the Authority. Call 717-845-1066 to schedule a presentation of this lesson plan for your class or assembly program.