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

PLAN

Summary Students learn about the contents of the garbage they produce, the resources involved in processing it, and the ways they could reduce waste by analyzing a bag of their own garbage. In addition students trace the path of a reusable or recyclable item.

Objectives

Students:

\checkmark differentiate between recyclable and nonrecyclable waste.

\checkmark estimate the amount of waste they produce.

\checkmark determine what portion of their waste is recyclable.

Student Materials

Per student

  • Activity Report

Per group

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

Per class

  • 1 bathroom scale

Teacher Materials

  • 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

A week before the activity you may want to ask each group to choose one member to bring in a bag of garbage from home. You may also decide to use garbage from the school. If you are concerned about what materials will be brought in you can simulate an assortment of garbage by using the items listed as Teacher Materials.

Obtain the guidelines for recycling plastic from a local recycling center.

Estimated Time Two 50-minute periods

Interdisciplinary Connections

Math Students use the volume and weight measurements and the calculations required for this activity as a springboard into math lessons on volume and weight.

Language Arts Students write letters to the local newspaper expressing their concerns about garbage disposal and include suggestions that would help the general public reduce the amount of garbage generated.

Prerequisites and Background Information

None

IMPLEMENT

Introduce Activity 6-1 by connecting the idea of cycling of natural resources to the recycling and nonrecycling of the materials we use every day. Students enjoy this activity after they overcome the initial repulsion to the idea of going through a garbage bag. Be sure to have students handling the garbage wear gloves.

Steps 1-3 Have students in each group spread a few sheets of newspaper on their table to avoid a mess when sorting the garbage.

Encourage students to take turns weighing their garbage with the scale while others measure the volume of the garbage in the box with a tape measure. Make sure students record their findings on the Activity Report.

Steps 4-7 When sorting the garbage into items that could be reused or recycled you may want to contrast the guidelines set by your local recycling program and the variety of materials designated as recyclable by the manufacturer. For example, you may discuss how some types of plastic containers are designated as recyclable but may not be accepted at your local recycling center.

To conclude Activity 6-1 you may want to have a discussion comparing the energy needed to turn raw materials into a product versus the energy needed to recycle that same item.

Extend Activity 6-1 by asking students to explore what happens when someone illegally dumps motor oil down the drain of a garage. The path of motor oil through a sewage system would be as follows.

i. Motor oil is dumped in the sink of a garage.

ii. The motor oil travels down the drain into the sewer line.

iii. The oil travels down the sewer line of the street to the sewage treatment plant.

iv. The oil is not broken down at the sewage treatment plant because the treatment usually only decomposes human waste.

v. The oil then may pass into open water and contaminate it.

vi. The oil may also take other routes. For example, it may enter septic systems where it could contaminate groundwater or runoff collectors that go straight to open water.

Use the volume and weight measurements and the calculations required for this activity as a springboard into math lessons on volume and weight.

Have students write letters to the local newspaper expressing their concerns about garbage disposal. Ask them to include suggestions that would help the general public reduce the amount of garbage generated.

ASSESS

Use students' written answers and discussion of the Activity Report to assess if students can

\checkmark demonstrate accurate measurement and calculation skills for volume and weight.

\checkmark explain how much garbage can be kept out of landfills.

Helpful Hints

Use a common bathroom scale to measure the weight of the garbage.

Overpackaging Students learn about the problem of overpackaging by examining how various manufacturers package their products.

Select a packaged item from home or school that you think is overpackaged. Write a letter to the company that produced the item and suggest alternative packaging ideas.

A suggested response will be provided upon request. Please send an email to teachers-requests@ck12.org.

Name ten things that are thrown away but aren't on the list of most common recyclables.

Review Questions/Answers

  • Sample answers to these questions will be provided upon request. Please send an email to teachers-requests@ck12.org to request sample answers.
  1. Why do people who work on waste disposal say that there is no “away”?
  2. What are the three steps you can follow to limit the amount of garbage that you send to a landfill?
  3. Why is it important to properly sort items for recycling?
  4. What is meant by biodegradable? Give two examples of biodegradable items, and explain why each is biodegradable.

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

  • Sample answers to these questions will be provided upon request. Please send an email to teachers-requests@ck12.org to request sample answers.

Questions 1-7: The answers to these questions depend on the amount and type of garbage the students are investigating.

8. Explain some ways you can reduce the amount of garbage that you as an individual produce.

Activity 6-1: Report What's in Your Garbage and Where Does It Go? (Student Reproducible)

1. Weight of garbage ___________ Volume of garbage ___________

2. a. After 30 days:

Weight of garbage ___________ Volume of garbage ___________

b. After 1 year:

Weight of garbage ___________ Volume of garbage ___________

3. List the items you removed from the garbage that could be reused, composted, or recycled. Explain how each item could be treated.

4.

&&& \text{Weight} \qquad \text{Volume}\\&\text{a. After removing recyclable items:} && \underline{\;\;\;\;\;\;\;\;} \qquad \quad \underline{\;\;\;\;\;\;\;\;}\\&\text{b. After removing recyclable items for 30 days:} && \underline{\;\;\;\;\;\;\;\;} \qquad  \quad \underline{\;\;\;\;\;\;\;\;}\\&\text{c. After removing recyclable items for 1 year:} && \underline{\;\;\;\;\;\;\;\;} \qquad  \quad \underline{\;\;\;\;\;\;\;\;}

5. Compare the total volume of garbage to the volume left over when the recyclables are removed. Calculate and record the percent of the volume that is recyclable.

6. Determine which items in your garbage could have been reused or recycled. List the people who will probably have to handle the items and the places the items may travel before reaching a landfill.

7. What kinds of items do you contribute to a typical garbage pile?

8. Explain some ways you can reduce the amount of garbage that you as an individual produce.

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Authors:

Grades:

6 , 7 , 8

Date Created:

Feb 23, 2012

Last Modified:

Sep 02, 2014
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