bring to school five items they would normally throw away and five items they
would normally recycle. Expert groups are formed to present information
on the recycling of glass, metal, plastic, and organics such as paper and food
waste. Classroom activities stress that many things we throw away can be recycled
and some things we try to recycle will be thrown away. The Family Page extends
this learning to the community by challenging families to increase recycling efforts
Topics: waste reduction (reduce, reuse, precycle, recycle), cycles, matter,
Ohio Academic Standards Alignment: Click here to view content standards alignment to Science for Ohio by grade level.
Time Required: 135 to 180 minutes
do not inherit the Earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children."
- Exponential population
growth combined with a shift in the past 150 years from an agricultural
society to an industrial/technological society has resulted in a glut of
natural resources that are being inefficiently cycled back to the Earth
in landfills. In the spring of 2000, human population surpassed the six
billion mark. Populations are expected to continue to climb and may reach
12 billion by the year 2050. The decisions we make today to maximize our
resources will have a direct impact on the quality of both human and nonhuman
life on the planet in our children's lifetimes.
- Solid waste is destined
to be an issue of great concern within our children's lifetimes. 4,255 of
the 5,499 existing landfills in the U.S. are predicted to close by the year
2010 (Bowden, 1992). Superdumps are being created presently in economically
impoverished areas such as rural West Virginia to handle the waste needs
of entire sections of our country. These areas accept short-term economic
gains in exchange for long-term environmental pollution as they take on
the legacy of our disposable society.
- Fewer places to dump
means a higher cost to consumers for the choice to have waste removed. Our
parents paid pennies per week for waste removal. Today, the average cost
of household waste removal is $15 to $25 per month. The cost of transportation
and handling for the superdumps of the future is unknown, but expected to
- Landfills do not efficiently
cycle solid waste. Landfills are not designed to cycle matter efficiently
back to the air, water, and soil. As layer upon layer is added to landfills,
sublayers are denied the air and sunlight needed for efficient decomposition
of matter. As a result, what we dump and cover today will likely be able
to be uncovered with little change in form for generations to come. Valuable
resources that go into landfills today will not be available for our children
- Waste reduction
is the key.
- 1st: Reduce.
Reducing the amount of natural resources used in the first place is
the number one way to sustain the Earth's natural resources. It has
the greatest economic and environmental benefit in terms of pollution,
energy usage, and habitat destruction.
- 2nd: Reuse.
Committing to use resources AT LEAST TWICE before recycling or landfilling
will slow the pace of natural resource consumption.
- 3rd: Precycle.
Purchasing products that have been recycled and can be recycled again
closes the recycling loop by allowing recycled products to enter the
market over and over.
- 4th: Recycle.
Of the many ways to sustain the Earth's resources, recycling is actually
at the bottom of the list. Of the four listed, recycling requires the
greatest amount of energy and causes the greatest amount of pollution.
Still, it is by far more efficient than extracting new resources from
the Earth, which has the greatest economic and environmental cost in
pollution, energy usage, and habitat destruction.
- Improving Recycling.
We need to begin by becoming better educated about the current practices
in recycling. Paper, metal, plastic, glass, and organic products all have
a different recycling process. By understanding these processes, we can
be better participants in them. Greater participation in recycling today
improves the availability of the Earth's finite resources for tomorrow.
Recycling is the answer to all of our natural resource problems. Fact:
Recycling is actually our "last ditch" effort to make continued
use of resources. The greatest gains in protecting natural resources
and our environment come from reducing consumption and reusing
existing resources. Both options use less energy and fewer natural resources
Anything with the "recycling triangle" on it is recyclable.
Fact: The paper industry adopted this icon in the 1970s to promote
paper recycling. The plastics industry adopted a similar icon in the 1980s,
but as a way of identifying the seven major types of plastics, not as
a guarantee of recyclability.
Any plastic product with a number one or number two in the triangle
is recyclable. Fact: Acceptable plastics vary from region to region.
In many areas only air blown plastics such as plastic bottles with a number
one or number two are accepted for recycling. Injection molded plastics
such as margarine tubs or plastic caps are not typically accepted.
Companies that collect recyclables make huge profits at our expense. Fact:
The only market for recyclables that has consistently yielded high profits
is the aluminum market. Markets for plastics, paper, glass, and other
metals vary and may even cost the collector money. As a result, the aluminum
market often keeps a collector in business by balancing low profits or
losses in other markets.
- Cautions. Students
should not bring in products which may carry harmful bacteria (meat, chicken,
etc.). Items brought from home that are messy or smelly (i.e., banana peels)
should be placed in a ZipLoc bag before students bring them to school.
- Expected Results.
Expect students to know more about waste reduction (including recycling)
than the average adult when finished with this activity.