Waste Reduction & Recycling

What's the problem?

As our population continually increases, so does the amount of waste we produce. The EPA estimates the US alone generates over 260 million tons of solid waste per year. Although there are recycling and composting programs that exist, even these have their problems that are limiting the programs from becoming mainstream and affordable. Contamination is the biggest problem facing the recycling movement. Contamination means that items that are non-recyclable are being placed into recycle bins. These cause major problems for recycling plants especially single use plastic bags and it becomes more costly for consumers.

Why should we care?

According to the EPA, 63% of materials that enter a landfill could easily be recycled or composted, including food, paper/cardboard, rubber/leather/textiles, and plastics. When items are correctly recycled, we could potentially divert more than half of what ends up in a landfill.

The global issue of waste being thrown into our oceans is one of the greatest environmental concerns today. The World Wildlife Fund found that 40% of marine creatures are affected by plastic pollution and thousands of them die as a result. The improper disposal of hazardous waste also affects the water, soil, and air surrounding the body of water, therefore making it unhealthy and inhabitable for humans and animals.

What can we do?

In addition to starting a recycling initiative, education on what can and cannot be recycled is even more important. Since contamination is an important issue, education can help solve it. Since contamination is the biggest issue education can help to solve it. Miami-Dade County’s website is a good resource for how you should be recycling. Remember, when in doubt, throw it out into the garbage, not the street, ocean, or anywhere other than a trash can.

To reduce the amount of plastic in our oceans, it is critical to reduce the amount of single use plastics and utilize reusable bags, straws and containers. As a school or community, a beach clean-up can be completed and you can request your school’s cafeteria to exclude plastic straws from the lunch cutlery packets. Lastly, we can support companies that are limiting or banning the use of plastics in their products and spread the word about what can be done to minimize plastic pollution in our oceans. Becoming an informed consumer by shopping a certain way and purchasing better items, results in less waste.

Green Schools Challenge Activities:

STE(A)M Activity - Research and Compare for your Waste Questionnaire!

CREATE YOUR OWN - Submit Lesson Plan click here

Schools can choose to do more than one activity but maximum amount of points a school can earn for this topic is the same. Points for participation will be based on a rubric. Download here.