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7.1: Planning

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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Key Idea

  • Recycling is an attempt by humans to cycle their resources in much the same way that resources cycle in undisturbed ecosystems.


This section extends the concept of cycling in biological communities to that of human recycling programs. In this section students learn that throwing things “away” does not mean that they cease to exist. Further, they learn that recycling is one important way to conserve the cycling of resources used by humans. By analyzing a bag of their own garbage, students investigate the contents of the garbage they produce, the resources involved in processing their garbage, and some ways to reduce waste.



differentiate between recyclable and non-recyclable waste.

estimate the amount of waste they produce.

explain how humans can recycle resources and reduce waste.


biodegradable, recycle

Student Materials

Activity 6-1: What's in Your Garbage and Where Does It Go?

Per student

  • Activity Report

Per group

  • A bag of typical garbage; Tape measure; 5-8 plastic bags; Cardboard box; Gloves; Calculator (optional)

Per class

  • 1 bathroom scale

Teacher Materials

Activity 6-1: What's in Your Garbage and Where Does It Go?

  • Activity Report Answer Key
  • To make your own “bag of garbage”: Milk carton; Paper wads; Glass bottles' Juice cartons; Coffee grinds; Vegetable peels; Containers for cleaning products; Used paper towels; Newspapers; Empty boxes or containers; Plastic bottles; Plastic food packages; Dinner scraps

Advance Preparation

See Activity 6-1 in the Student Edition

Activity 6-1: What's in Your Garbage and Where Does It Go?

  • Have students bring in garbage from home. If you are concerned about what materials will be brought in, simulate an assortment of garbage by using the items listed above under Teacher Materials.

Enrichment Activities


Interdisciplinary Connections

Language Arts Students can write letters to local newspapers to express concerns about issues of reducing the use of or recycling resources.

Math Students can use volume and weight measurements to calculate the amount of garbage their family produces in a month and a year. Students can calculate the impact of recycling by comparing the total volume and weight of the garbage before recycling with the total amount of garbage after recycling.

Background Information

Most of the products that are purchased at a store have many layers of packaging. In many cases this extra packaging doesn't serve any real purpose. In fact the overpackaging usually increases the cost of the product, creates more garbage, and wastes resources. An example might be packaged American cheese slices. Each slice of cheese is individually wrapped with plastic wrap and then all of the slices are wrapped with an outside layer of wrapping. The manufacturer claims that this is necessary to keep the cheese fresh until you are ready to use the individual slices. Alternatives to purchasing this product might be to buy bulk cheese, wrap it in one piece of plastic wrap, and slice it as needed.

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Date Created:
Feb 23, 2012
Last Modified:
Apr 29, 2014
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