On average, Americans create about 4.5 pounds of garbage a day, which is about 250 million tons every year! All of this waste takes up a lot of landfill space. And most of the waste Americans send to the landfill could have gone someplace else! For example, according to EPA.gov, 25% of the material in the landfill is paper or cardboard, about 4% is glass, 13% is plastic, and about 28% of the material is food or yard trimmings. All of these items could be recycled thus minimizing the amount of waste that ends up in the landfill and decreases our need for obtaining more natural resources to make the products in the first place!
Each of us can make a difference and reduce the amount of waste we throw into the landfills, but first, we need to figure out just how much waste we are producing and what kinds of materials we are throwing away. We can do this by conducting a waste audit. This will help you figure out where to make improvements towards producing less waste and therefore, helping improve our environment! Watch this short video of other kids sorting through their garbage!
- Newspaper to spread on the floor
- Reusable gloves
- Your trash (at least one full garbage can to sort through)
- Lay out your newspaper.
- With the help of an adult, start by pulling out a couple handfuls of garbage and placing them in a pile in the middle of your newspaper.
- Begin sorting through the trash. Refer to this website if you aren’t sure what items can be recycled. While sorting, be careful! There may be some sharp objects in there. And if you aren’t certain if it can be recycled or not, put it in the landfill pile. When in doubt, throw it out! Make 6 separate piles: plastics, glass, paper, metal, food scraps, and one other pile of items that don’t fit into any of those groups (landfill pile).
- When you have sorted everything in your garbage can, ask these questions:
- What do you notice?
- Are some piles larger than others? Why is that?
- This would be a great time to take a photo of all the different piles you have made!
- Next, discuss with your family the other ways these items can be used. For example, are there some pickle jars that you found? If so, what else could you do with those pickle jars besides recycling them? Maybe you could REUSE them, and make it into a vase for flowers or hold a marble collection!
- Discuss the other things you can do as a family to generate less waste. Maybe there are some items that you could have avoided using. Could you have put the garbage in a bag that held chips once so you don’t need to use another plastic garbage bag? Or, maybe that shirt that was too small could be donated after the quarantine so someone else can reuse it!
- Lastly, place the garbage back into the bin and clean up the newspapers – if the newspaper got wet or soiled by food, it should be put in the Food+ bin, or if you don’t have Food+ it should go into the garbage. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterward!