Students will list four ways to decrease waste: reduce, reuse, recycle, compost.
Students will identify the best way to dispose of different types of household waste.
A collection of various pieces of household waste that would be disposed of in different ways, such as a glass bottle, Styrofoam cup, aluminum can, newspaper, plastic milk carton, banana peel or apple core, battery.
Tell students that millions of tons of solid waste are taken to landfills each year. Ask students what types of things they commonly throw in the trash. Ask students if they can think of ways that the amount of trash going to landfills could be decreased.
Have the items listed above on display at the front of the classroom. Lead a class discussion about the best way to dispose of each item. Have students identify which items are recyclable, compostable, can go in the regular trash, or require special treatment for disposal, such as the battery. Batteries contain heavy metals and should not be disposed of in landfills because they will contaminate the soil and groundwater, and they need to be disposed of in special collection sites.
Introduce students to the different ways that solid waste can be decreased: reduce, reuse, recycle and compost. Write these categories on the board, and have students come up with examples of how each of these ways that they can decrease the amount of trash they produce. Record student responses. Here are some possible ideas for each category.
Reduce- purchase goods with less packaging, such as bulk items, or larger sizes rather than individual servings, share items rather than having one for each person
Reuse- choose durable rather than disposable items, use dishes, tableware and napkins that can be washed and reused, cloth diapers, rechargeable batteries, stainless steel or Nalgene water bottles, canvas shopping bags, borrow items instead of buying new ones, use the back side of paper for taking notes or making lists
Recycle- paper, glass, metal and certain plastics can be recycled
Compost- yard waste and food waste, coffee filters, tea bags
If there is no curbside recycling program in your community, students can find out the nearest place to take recycling or hazardous waste by visiting the Earth911 website (http://earth911.com/recycling/) and entering their zip code.
As an out of class activity, students can keep a log of everything they throw away for a week and categorize it as recyclable, non-recyclable, or compost.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, The Consumer’s Handbook for Reducing Solid Waste