Talkin’ trash! (reducing trash and litter)

Waste prevention
Waste prevention (Photo credit: sepponet)

After these last postings about compost, it seems only natural to teach about reducing trash and litter.  Here are some activities, including poems, coloring pages, online videos, songs, and hands-on explorations, to make this topic fun and thought provoking.

Watch a Fascinating Short Video 

  • Watch the teaser video for the movie The Landfillharmonic, where children in Paraguay play instruments created out of trash.
  • Mumbai recycles about 80% of their waste! Watch this video and learn how some people from the slums of Mumbai rise out of poverty by finding plastic in the trash to sell to recycling factories.
  • Here is another video on the great pacific garbage patch (I like that this one explains how all plastic in tiny waterways all around the country will eventually go into the ocean, connecting the local to the global).
On the basis of File:Thermohaline circulation....
Ocean currents with emphasis on the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Online Games

  • Visit recycle city to find out ways people and businesses in this animated town reduce, reuse, compost, and recycle for to help the environment.
  • Play this online game where you need to sort waste into trash, compost, and recycling piles.

Lesson Activity Ideas

  • Read Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout, by Shel Sylverstein, to start a discussion of where the garbage goes when she takes it out.
  • Have each student bring in a trash bag and instead of using the classroom bins for trash (and recycling), they will each use the personal bags for trash for one school day.  This includes lunch trash (only dry goods though), but caution student not to include bathroom trash.  At the end of the day, weigh the bags of trash.  Find out how much the whole class would be throwing away.  Multiply it by the number of days in school to find out how much trash this class produces over a year.  Analyze bags and tally what types of trash the students produced.  Discuss what could have been composted, re-used, recycled, and reduced.  You could repeat this lesson at the end of a waste reduction unit and compare student’s amounts of trash.
  • Start an outdoor compost for your school to compost appropriate food wastes from lunch and turn them into beautiful soil for the garden.
English: San Francisco's Fantastic Three Recyc...
English: San Francisco’s Fantastic Three Recycling, Compost, and Landfill bins for Events (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
    • Start a discussion about wasteful packaging by presenting two apples to the class, one with a ribbon tied round it, and one just plain.  Ask kids which apple they would prefer (most will prefer the one with the ribbon).  Discuss how the ribbon is made from plastic (oil) and adds waste.  Examine packages of common foods to compare wasteful packaging.   Brainstorm on ways students could package their own lunches less wastefully (be creative!  ex:  buy large containers of yogurt and carry reusable containers full of yogurt instead of buying lots of little containers).  There are some great ideas of ways to reduce school trash in this article.
    • Have kids keep track over the course of one week every time they recycled, composted, reduced, or re-used after a discussion about ways they can do these things.  Afterward, they can analyze the tallies by making a graph and write about ways they can improve in their lowest category.
    • Brainstorm ways your school could help this problem get smaller instead of bigger.  Write letters to administrators with your ideas!
    • Brainstorm ways your community could help this problem get smaller instead of larger and write letters to people you think could help implement your ideas.
    • Sing songs about composting, reducing, re-using, and recycling!
International Recycling Symbol 32px|alt=W3C|li...
International Recycling Symbol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Printout Pages

  • Do this worksheet as a class to explore how long it takes common household trash items to decompose in a landfill.
  • The EPA has collected some great printout activities and coloring pages for kids.  I particularly like the “Follow That Trail!” activity pages and also the “Planet Protectors Create Less Waste in the First Place” booklet.

Do you have any other ideas to add to my list?  What would you teach next?

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2 Comments Add yours

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