- Where Should It
Recycle? Compost? Incinerate? Landfill?
- GRADE LEVELS:
- SUBJECT AREAS:
Where should our garbage go?
To understand that solutions to garbage disposal problems are
varied and complex.
- 5 cardboard boxes or small garbage cans
- a bag of clean garbage (choose items that will fit into all
- handout: Where Does This Trash Belong?
incinerate, compost, landfill, recycle
BACKGROUND: Our solid waste problem is very complex. To
solve this problem, each community must look at all the possible
solutions and make a comprehensive solid waste plan. These plans
may include reduction, recycling, composting, incineration, and
landfilling. No single method will solve the problem, so each
community has to decide which alternatives best meet the local
- We are all garbage producers and therefore
part of the problem. We must also all be part of the solution.
In this activity, we want to make students think about where
garbage can go. At present it may all go to a landfill or incinerator,
or some may be recycled or composted.
- 1. Take 5 boxes and place them at on
end of the room and ask the students to label them:
- 2. Take a bag of clean garbage and
dump it out on the floor at the opposite end of the room.
- 3. Set up two teams and let them sort
the garbage by taking one item at a time and placing it in a
- 4. After the students have sorted the
garbage, go through the bins and ask why items were placed in
certain boxes. Some items may appropriately fit into more than
one box. The answers are not always clear, depending on options
available in your community.
- 5. This can be done on paper also by
drawing lines between the item and the container on the handout
called Where Does This Trash Belong?
- 6. Discuss the following questions:
- Can all items be recycled? No, some items are made from
many different materials that are hard to separate.
- - Can everything be burned if we have
an incinerator? No, some items will not burn, and some are
valuable resources that could be fixed, reused, or recycled.
- -If we have an incinerator, will we
still need a landfill? Yes, the ash from incinerators must
be sent to a landfill, and there are also some hazardous items
(like batteries) that should be landfilled rather than burned.
- FOLLOW-UP: Discuss
the idea of waste reduction. (What items are not needed in the
first place? Could we have used durable products rather than
disposable ones? Could we have purchased products with less packaging?)
- Back to Solid Waste Activities Grades K-3
Cornell Waste Management Institute ©1991
Department of Crop and Soil Sciences
Bradfield Hall, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853