The Cost Of The Toss
Adapted from Recycling Study Guide
by Hallowell et al., Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Back to Trash Goes to School
social studies
environmental education
CONCEPT: Cost of disposal.
OBJECTIVE: To have students develop a better understanding of what options exist for managing solid waste, and the cost and benefits of each option.
students to play roles
KEYWORDS: criterion, value
1. Imagine yourself as the mayor of Noteworthy, New York. Yours is a pleasant city of 65,000 people. Unfortunately, Noteworthy is in the midst of a crisis: your landfill must be closed because it doesn't comply with present standards for protecting the environment. What is Noteworthy going to do with all its garbage?
As mayor, you're responsible for investigating new options for managing Noteworthy's solid waste. You begin by forming a solid waste committee to study the options. Who do you think should sit on this committee (town treasurer, public works director, citizen representative, landfill developer, etc.)? Assign fellow classmates to play these roles and decide on a name for your committee.
You will want to involve the whole class or group and if time permits, carry out the committee meetings over several days or one day a month for several months. It can serve as a great research learning experience to come together, ask questions, form subcommittees to answer the questions (as follows), and come together with new information on which to base decisions. If students already have done research on this topic, they may be able to make the decision in one day.
2. Call a meeting of the committee. Prepare a chart to help members see some options and the impacts of managing garbage from Noteworthy' homes and businesses. Include for each disposal alternative factors such as the number of employees needed, the landfill needs per year, the net cost per year, the amount of energy used and/or produced, environmental concerns and the type of citizen participation required. Study your chart and, as a group, consider the following questions:
- At first glance, which waste disposal option seems best? Why? Do you all agree? Is there one best option? (reduce, recycle, compost, incinerate, or landfill?)
- What criteria and values are you using to judge options? Are you pro-business, pro-taxpayer, pro-environment, pro-convenience? Discuss how your personal point of view might influence how you judge the importance of each potential impact.
- Would you feel differently if a facility were located near your home?
- How do the options relate to state or federal laws and regulations?
- For how many years into the future are you planning? (Plan for a 10-year term, at least). Why is this an important consideration (population growth, long-term economic and environmental impacts, etc.)?
- How would transportation requirements affect your choices?
- Compare the pros and cons of citizen convenience and environmental impacts for each option. Do you consider citizen convenience more important then environmental impacts or vice versa? Why? How does your view affect which option you think is better?
- What is the relationship between net cost and citizen convenience? Is what's convenient the least/most expensive? Should saving money be a major concern?
- Does your chart calculate in the "costs" of each option's long-term environmental impacts or use of natural resources? What might these "costs" be? How much should the committee be concerned about these "costs" in making a decision?
- If creating jobs is high on your list of priorities, which option would you choose?
-You have read somewhere about composting municipal solid waste. Where can you find out more about composting? Why might your community consider composting as a valid option for managing part of the waste stream? Which wastes could be composted? About how much of the waste stream could be composted? What will you do with the compost?
- What are the pros and cons of incineration? Do you think the benefits (landfill space saved, energy produced, convenience) outweigh the costs? How much ash will be produced, and where will it go? How much energy will be generated? What are the experiences of other communities that already have installed incinerators?
- What are the pros and cons of recycling? What wastes could be recycled? What percentage of the waste stream could be recycled? What will happen to the rest? Where will the recyclables go?
3. Investigate what is required by your local, state, and federal governments for choosing the waste management option(s) for Noteworthy (e.g. public hearing, citizen referendum, DEC approval, environmental impact statement).
4. Do you feel you have enough information to make a wise decision for your town? If not, where can you find this information?
5. Now that your committee has investigated and discussed the options for Noteworthy's solid waste management plan, make a decision about which option(s) the town should enact.
6. List suggestions for what you can do to ensure the success of Noteworthy's new waste management plan (e.g., community education, providing containers for recycling).
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