What should I do with this trash?
In this unit, students investigate an everyday phenomenon, what to do with trash. Students consider their daily trash disposal decisions and what happens to disposed items. Students begin a trash journal and record their trash decisions for several days. The class develops a Driving Question Board (DQB), that helps generate ideas for investigations. Their questions drive the flow of the unit. Students plan and carry out their own investigations to answer these questions. This includes investigating waste management problems and solutions, considering when and how to recycle, and investigating alternatives to waste. The unit culminates in a student developed action plan and a plan for a waste management community information event.
About This Unit
This waste management unit has been created by the Office for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education (MSTE) in collaboration with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This unit is aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to provide ease in supplementing environmental education in the formal classroom but is also suitable for informal use. It has been designed to develop critical thinking skills, and to encourage students to think constructively about environmental issues and to make informed decisions about our natural resources.
What are the choices?
What is a waste management hierarchy?
A waste management hierarchy prioritizes preventing waste and minimizing disposal.
What is source reduction?
Reducing new purchases
Reducing food waste
Composting food and yard waste is a good way to recycle organic matter, reduce landfill space, and improve soil.
Are there successful recycling programs?
Aluminum can be recycled indefinitely.
Recycling plastic is more complicated.
What happens during the recycling process?
What are benefits of plastic?
Which plastic items are biggest problems?
Plastic is very durable and resource efficient, but single-use plastics cause unnecessary waste.
What are alternatives to traditional plastic?
What do we need to know about recycling plastic?
Re-usable water bottles, paper packaging, and biodegradable plastics are examples of good alternatives.
What can be recycled but not in the bin?
Which trash items are hazardous?
How can these be disposed of safely?
Community collection programs provide safe disposal of hazardous items.
What happens to trash in a landfill?
Can a landfill get full?
Landfill gas can be used as an energy source.
Landfills are designed to reduce groundwater contamination and harm to surrounding areas.
What are other solutions?
What can my community
do? What can I do?
This document details the flow of lessons from the teacher perspective, including lab set-up and safety instructions, suggestions for discussion prompts, and examples of student work to assist in planning. Individual lessons from the Pathway document are included for reference, followed by detailed learning plans.
A number of consumable and non-consumable materials and supplies are used during investigations. Some additional, optional equipment can enhance the investigations if available.
Lessons in the Teacher Guide reference specific activity sheets; you can find links to these sheets below.
The following collections of resources may be helpful to augment this Waste Management unit:
You can find all of the materials listed above and more in our public Google Drive folder. These documents can be downloaded or copied into a private Google Drive and modified for classroom use.