Sometimes we forget that nothing disappears. Even though our daily garbage is taken out of our sight, it goes somewhere. In landfills, where a lot of it ends up, garbage is buried with dirt. There is very little oxygen in landfills, which means that decomposition is very slow. For this reason, landfills are often capped and we turn to new areas of land.
We also recycle much of our garbage. Recycling is the process of turning used materials back into raw materials that can be made into something new. Recycling generally conserves natural resources, reduces pollution and often conserves energy. Paper can be reduced back into a pulp that makes more paper. Food and yard waste can be composted into nutrient rich soil. Metal and glass can be melted and reformed into glass and metal objects. Plastics are coded into different types (1 through 7). Depending on the type of plastic, it can be recycled into new plastic materials.Of increasing importance is “e-waste” – old computers, cell phones, iPods, and other electronics. These can and should be recycled, as they contain valuable and potentially toxic materials that would otherwise end up in landfills.
Our job in the Rhinebeck schools is to calculate how much waste is produced, find ways to reduce the amount of waste we produce and then continue to measure our waste to see if our actions make a difference.
Waste links for students
Visit a virtual “Recycle City” http://www.epa.gov/recyclecity
Read about what happens to our garbage http://www.kid-at-art.com/htdoc/educate.html
Fun facts sheets about landfills, recycling and more! http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=588868&mode=2
Facts about waste (for older students) http://www.learner.org/interactives/garbage/intro.html
Waste Data Form (Coming Soon)