Let's Reduce and Recycle

Let's Reduce and Recycle

Let's Reduce and Recycle

144 Pages ·1997·7.74 MB ·English

Let's Reduce and Recycle

detinUsetatS diloSetsaW 500-09-WS-035/APE


latnemnorivnEnoitcetorP yedcsnnnaeogprseemRE tsuguA0991


ycnegA )503-SO(


s’teL ecudeR dna:elcyceR


mulucirruC rof diloSetsaW


ssenerawA Let’s Reduce and Recycle:


Curriculum for Solid


Waste Awareness


Lesson Plans


for Grades K-6 and 7-12


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 1980


Revised 1990


, FOREWORD


The lesson plans in this curriculum guide are based upon those that emerged as part of a


public education campaign to promote recycling awareness in Somerville, Massachusetts, in


December 1975. The Somerville recycling program was funded by the U.S. Environmental


Protection Agency (EPA) as a demonstration project to determine the feasibility of


separating recyclable household waste from other waste prior to pickup. A major factor in


the success of the Somerville program was the aggressive effort to inform residents of the


program and of the importance of their participation. The school system was used to help


spread information to children and, through them, to their parents. “Let’s Recycle: Lesson


Plans for Grades K-6 and 7-12” was frost published by EPA in 1980.


In response to an increasing need for public awareness and participation in dealing with the


solid waste “garbage crisis,”EPA has revised “Let’s Recycle.” Sarah Carney of the U.S.


EPA’s Office of Solid Waste managed the project. The revision updates the activities and


statistics on waste management and disposal, and reflects current attitudes toward recycling


and reducing solid waste.


John Madama, Steppingstones, Inc. prepared the original curriculum package. Many of the


ideas and activities were first developed by the Environmental Action Coalition of New


York City in a series of teaching packets called “Don’t Waste Waste.” EPA acknowledges


permission for their use and permission by the Atlanta Clean City Commission to reprint


the skit “Throwaway Three.”


..


111 With the aluminum we throw away in 3 months, the United


States could rebuild its entire commercial airfleet.


We throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour (22 billion plastic bottles a year).


We throw away over 200 million tires every year (one for every person in the United States).


person in the United States).


We throw away 31.6 million tons of yard waste each year.


Los Angeles New York


Every 2 weeks, we throw away enough bottles and jars to fill


the 1,350-foot twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center.


With the office and writing paper we throw away every year,


we could build a 12-foot high wall from Los Angeles to New


York City. TABLE OF CONTENTS


Page


Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1


How to Use These Lesson Plans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3


Developing a Community Profile . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4


C l i p A r t . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 6


GRADES K-6


UNIT ONE W h a t I s W a s t e ? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15


Activity 1: To define waste and discuss where it


comes from 15


Activity 2: To introduce children to the Garbage Gremlin


and what he stands for 16


Activity 3: To identify the many different types of waste . . . 17


UNIT TWO Where Does Waste Go? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19


Activity 4: To illustrate the importance of clean air, water,


and land. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19


Activity 5: To introduce children to the concept of pollution


and the different forms pollution may take . . . . 20


Activity 6: To help children identify litter in the world


around them . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..21


Activity 7: To allow children to compare what happens to


waste in a dump and in a landfill . . . . . . . 22


Activity 8: To learn about the harmful effects of burning


and the alternative of waste combustion . . . . 23


Activity 9: To demonstrate how garbage can pollute


the water . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..24


UNIT THREE How Does Waste Affect Our Resources? . . . . . . . 25


Activity 10: To introduce the concept of natural resources . . . 25


Activity 11: To illustrate the use of a natural resource . . . . 26


Activity 12: To illustrate that by wasting things in our


home and at play we are using up the vital


resource supply of the earth 27


Activity 13: To give children an appreciation of


waste disposal costs . . . . . . . . . . . . 28


Activity 14: To help children realize the enormous amount


of resources Americans throw away . . . . . . 30


v I


UNIT FOUR: How can we produce less waste? 31


Activity 15: To explore changes in lifestyle that have led


to increased production of waste . . . . . . . . 31


Activity 16: To introduce children to the concept


of source reduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32


Activity 17: To help make children conscious of


packaging and ways that it can be reduced . . . 34


Activity 18: To show children that some things that


are thrown out have value . . . . . . . . . . 35


Activity 19: To introduce children to the concept


of reuse as an alternative to disposal . . . . . . . 36


Activity 20: To understand product toxicity and explore


ways to reduce it. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36


UNIT FIVE What can we do about waste? 39


Activity 21: To show children the function of mold


in nature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..39


Activity 22: To introduce children to the concept


of natural cycles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40


Activity 23: To introduce the concept of recycling


as an alternative to disposal 41


Activity 24: To review the ideas of recycling and-reuse 42


Activity 25: To increase children’s awareness of recycling


in their community and get them involved in


school recycling efforts . . . . . . . . . . . . 43


Activity 26: To illustrate how a common manufacturing


process uses resources . . . . . . . . . . . 46


Activity 27: To encourage children to extend their


new awareness of source reduction and


recycling outside of the classroom . . . . . . . . 48


Activity 28: To allow children to present what they


have learned about recycling to the school


and/or community . . . . . . . . . . . . ..49


vi I


Grades 7-12


UNIT ONE What Is Waste? .


53


Activity 1: To investigate the origins and vocabulary


of waste . . .. .. . . . . . . . . . . . . ..53


Activity 2: To identify the components of waste


and their sources 54


Activity 3: To familiarize students with the Garbage Gremlin


as a representation of our wasteful habits . . . . 54


UNIT TWO How do we manage our waste? 55


Activity 4: To explore current methods of waste


disposal and management . . . . . . . . . . 55


Activity 5: To introduce students to the principles


of waste combustion 56


Activity 6: To introduce students to the principles


of land disposal . 61


Activity 7: To familiarize students with modern


sanitary landfills . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62


Activity 8: To sensitize students to the problems of litter . . 64


Activity 9: To increase students’ awareness of the


quantities of waste in their own community


and the costs of disposal and management . . . 65


UNIT THREE How does waste affect our resources? 67


Activity 10: To introduce students to the concept


of natural resources . . . . . 67


Activity 11: To introduce the concept of renewable-versus


nonrenewable natural resources 68


Activity 12: To acquaint students with the components


of solid waste . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .70


Activity 13: To identify the sources of natural resources and


gain an appreciation of their scarcity . . . . . . 72


Activity 14: To explore energy as a resource and discuss


different sources of energy . . . . . . . 73


UNIT FOUR How can we produce less waste? 75


Activity 15: To introduce students to the concept


of source reduction . . . . . . . . . .


Activity 16: To explore historical changes that


have contributed to increased waste . . .


Activity 17: To help students appreciate the contribution


of packaging to the solid waste stream . . 75 76 77 79 80 81


Activity 18: To explore options for reducing packaging


Activity 19: To introduce students to the idea that


certain types of waste can be reused . .


Activity 20: To explore options for reducing the


toxicity of products . . . . . . . . . .


vii UNIT FIVE What Can We Do About Waste? . . . . . . . . . . . . 83


Activity 21: 10 introduce students to the concept


of natural cycles, and how they can


be disturbed 83


Activity 22: To demonstrate the principles of the. . . . . . . . ..


water cycle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85


Activity 23: To demonstrate the nutrient cycle . . . . . . . 85


Activity 24: To introduce students to the principles


. of composting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86


Activity 25: To acquaint students with the meaning of


the word “recycle” and the recycling symbol 89


Activity 26: To review solid waste problems and learn how


glass, paper, plastic, used oil, aluminum, yard


waste, and tin-plated steel cans are recycled . . . 90


Activity 27: To investigate a common manufacturing


process, its use of resources, and its


production of waste 93


Activity 28: To encourage students to design a


system to separate recyclable . . . . . . . . 93


Activity 29: To involve students in a classroom or


community-wide recycling effort . . . . . . . . 94


Activity 30: To calculate how much money a


community could save by recycling. . . . . . . 95


Activity 31: To explore attitudes toward recycling and buying


products made from recycled materials . . . . . 96


Activity 32: To involve students in the waste


management decision-making process . . . . . 97


Activity 33: To determine the availability of products made


from recycled materials in the marketplace . . . 100


Activity 34: To conduct a debate on the pros and cons of


the returnable versus the no-deposit,


no-return bottle 101


Activity 35: To explore the contributions that business and


government can make to the recycling effort . . . 102


Activity 36: To allow students an opportunity to educate


the school and community about solid waste


management . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102


,


Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105


Throwaway Three -A Short Skit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115


State Solid Waste Agencies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123


Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 129


Evaluation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .141


,..


viii I


INTRODUCTION


In the United States today we too often discard items that in earlier times would have been


repaired or saved for other uses. In fact, many modern products are designed for a


relatively short life followed by a speedy trip to the refuse pile. As a nation, we currently


produce about 180 million tons of municipal solid waste a year. This quantity of solid waste


is enough to fill a convoy of garbage trucks stretching halfway to the moon!


How we can manage all of this waste in an environmentally sound manner is a complex and


often controversial issue. Water pollution can result not only from dumping trash directly


into the lakes, rivers, and seas, but also from runoff and leaching from dumps. Air


pollution can result from faulty combustion and from decomposition gases surfacing in


landfllls. Fires, explosions, noxious odors, rodents, and disease also must be guarded


against in landfills. And direct contact with refuse can be dangerous in some cases to the


public as well as to the waste collectors and processors (who, incidentally, have among the


highest on-the-job injury rates of any occupation in the nation).


Our disposal options are steadily being reduced. The so-called “open dump” is now an


anachronism; it has been gradually phased out because of its potentially unsafe and


unsightly conditions. Although more than 70 percent of our garbage is currently buried in


, landfills, more than one-third of the nation’s landfills will be full within the next few years.


Locating sites for new landfills (even facilities designed with state-of-the-art safeguards) is


getting more difficult all the time due to economic constraints and public concern over


[ human health and siting near neighborhoods.


Much of the opposition to landfills has been based on perceptions of possible pollution,


health, and safety problems. In actuality, many of these problems can be avoided or


controlled by proper siting, design, and operation of disposal facilities. New regulations for


landfill design ensure that newly constructed landfills will remain safe for many years into


,


the future. We are producing, however, an increasing amount of waste each year; by the


year 2000, we are projected to generate 216 million tons per year. Waste disposal costs are


also soaring. Longer hauling distances from metropolitan areas to landfill sites and more


stringent environmental regulations push costs upwards, as do general increases in labor


costs and rising land values. In some areas of the country, it can cost as much as $100 per


ton or more to dispose of waste.


1 I


There is no single, simple solution to our communities’ solid waste problem. To effectively


reduce solid waste management problems, communities need to consider a hierarchy of


integrated waste management techniques. The term “integrated waste management” refers


to the complementary use of a variety of waste management practices to safely and


effectively handle municipal solid waste with the least harmful impacts on health and the


environment. The hierarchy consists of three levels: first, source reduction; second,


recycling; and third, combustion and landfill.


At the top of the hierarchy is source reduction, or reducing both the amount and the toxicity


of the waste we generate. Manufacturers may contribute to source reduction by designing


and manufacturing products that contain fewer toxics and less packaging. As consumers,


we can use our buying power to select more durable and nondisposable products, products


that have more than one “life,” and those with less packaging and fewer toxic components.


One of the best ways to lessen our waste disposal problems is to reuse many of the things


we have habitually thrown out.


Recycling, including composting of food and yard waste, is the next tier of the hierarchy.


Widespread recycling efforts prevent potentially useful materials from being placed in


landfills or combusted, thus preserving our limited capacity for disposal. Reuse of


materials also saves energy and natural resources. It is good for American business and can


help the economy. For example, aluminum cans, paper, and used oil (among many other


items) can be reprocessed to make new products. The emphasis in “Let’s Reduce and


Recycle: Curriculum for Solid Waste Awareness” is on source reduction and recycling.


Waste combustion and landfill are next in the hierarchy of integrated waste management.


Combustion reduces the bulk of municipal waste, while providing the added benefit of


energy production. Source reduction and recycling can make combustion and landfill safer


and more efficient by reducing the quantity and toxicity of the waste and removing


recyclables that may be difficult to combust or may cause potentially harmful emissions.


Landfill will continue to be the major method of solid waste disposal for the near future. It


is needed to handle waste that cannot be recycled or safely combusted. Also, residual ash


from waste combustion must be disposed of in specially designed landfills. It is likely that


there will always be some portion of waste requiring landfill no matter how efficient our


reduction, recovery, treatment, and recycling processes become. We can, however, greatly


reduce this portion by becoming aware of our own individual contributions to the solid


waste problem and modifying our habits to promote wise use and reuse of our valuable


resources.


It is no longer possible to hide the “garbage crisis” from the public eye. It threatens to


weaken our cities and consume valuable portions of our natural resource base. The cost to


communities of handling increasing quantities of solid waste diverts public funds from


other important needs such as education and police and fire protection. The school system


is an invaluable tool for increasing public awareness of this problem. Teachers are in an


excellent position to enlighten our younger citizens about how solid waste problems relate


to them, and how they can contribute to a solution.


2


detinUsetatS diloSetsaW 500-09-WS-035/APE


latnemnorivnEnoitcetorP yedcsnnnaeogprseemRE tsuguA0991


ycnegA )503-SO(


s’teL ecudeR dna:elcyceR


mulucirruC rof diloSetsaW


ssenerawA Let’s Reduce and Recycle:


Curriculum for Solid


Waste Awareness


Lesson Plans


for Grades K-6 and 7-12


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 1980


Revised 1990


, FOREWORD


The lesson plans in this curriculum guide are based upon those that emerged as part of a


public education campaign to promote recycling awareness in Somerville, Massachusetts, in


December 1975. The Somerville recycling program was funded by the U.S. Environmental


Protection Agency (EPA) as a demonstration project to determine the feasibility of


separating recyclable household waste from other waste prior to pickup. A major factor in


the success of the Somerville program was the aggressive effort to inform residents of the


program and of the importance of their participation. The school system was used to help


spread information to children and, through them, to their parents. “Let’s Recycle: Lesson


Plans for Grades K-6 and 7-12” was frost published by EPA in 1980.


In response to an increasing need for public awareness and participation in dealing with the


solid waste “garbage crisis,”EPA has revised “Let’s Recycle.” Sarah Carney of the U.S.


EPA’s Office of Solid Waste managed the project. The revision updates the activities and


statistics on waste management and disposal, and reflects current attitudes toward recycling


and reducing solid waste.


John Madama, Steppingstones, Inc. prepared the original curriculum package. Many of the


ideas and activities were first developed by the Environmental Action Coalition of New


York City in a series of teaching packets called “Don’t Waste Waste.” EPA acknowledges


permission for their use and permission by the Atlanta Clean City Commission to reprint


the skit “Throwaway Three.”


..


111 With the aluminum we throw away in 3 months, the United


States could rebuild its entire commercial airfleet.


We throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour (22 billion plastic bottles a year).


We throw away over 200 million tires every year (one for every person in the United States).


person in the United States).


We throw away 31.6 million tons of yard waste each year.


Los Angeles New York


Every 2 weeks, we throw away enough bottles and jars to fill


the 1,350-foot twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center.


With the office and writing paper we throw away every year,


we could build a 12-foot high wall from Los Angeles to New


York City. TABLE OF CONTENTS


Page


Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1


How to Use These Lesson Plans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3


Developing a Community Profile . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4


C l i p A r t . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 6


GRADES K-6


UNIT ONE W h a t I s W a s t e ? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15


Activity 1: To define waste and discuss where it


comes from 15


Activity 2: To introduce children to the Garbage Gremlin


and what he stands for 16


Activity 3: To identify the many different types of waste . . . 17


UNIT TWO Where Does Waste Go? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19


Activity 4: To illustrate the importance of clean air, water,


and land. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19


Activity 5: To introduce children to the concept of pollution


and the different forms pollution may take . . . . 20


Activity 6: To help children identify litter in the world


around them . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..21


Activity 7: To allow children to compare what happens to


waste in a dump and in a landfill . . . . . . . 22


Activity 8: To learn about the harmful effects of burning


and the alternative of waste combustion . . . . 23


Activity 9: To demonstrate how garbage can pollute


the water . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..24


UNIT THREE How Does Waste Affect Our Resources? . . . . . . . 25


Activity 10: To introduce the concept of natural resources . . . 25


Activity 11: To illustrate the use of a natural resource . . . . 26


Activity 12: To illustrate that by wasting things in our


home and at play we are using up the vital


resource supply of the earth 27


Activity 13: To give children an appreciation of


waste disposal costs . . . . . . . . . . . . 28


Activity 14: To help children realize the enormous amount


of resources Americans throw away . . . . . . 30


v I


UNIT FOUR: How can we produce less waste? 31


Activity 15: To explore changes in lifestyle that have led


to increased production of waste . . . . . . . . 31


Activity 16: To introduce children to the concept


of source reduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32


Activity 17: To help make children conscious of


packaging and ways that it can be reduced . . . 34


Activity 18: To show children that some things that


are thrown out have value . . . . . . . . . . 35


Activity 19: To introduce children to the concept


of reuse as an alternative to disposal . . . . . . . 36


Activity 20: To understand product toxicity and explore


ways to reduce it. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36


UNIT FIVE What can we do about waste? 39


Activity 21: To show children the function of mold


in nature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..39


Activity 22: To introduce children to the concept


of natural cycles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40


Activity 23: To introduce the concept of recycling


as an alternative to disposal 41


Activity 24: To review the ideas of recycling and-reuse 42


Activity 25: To increase children’s awareness of recycling


in their community and get them involved in


school recycling efforts . . . . . . . . . . . . 43


Activity 26: To illustrate how a common manufacturing


process uses resources . . . . . . . . . . . 46


Activity 27: To encourage children to extend their


new awareness of source reduction and


recycling outside of the classroom . . . . . . . . 48


Activity 28: To allow children to present what they


have learned about recycling to the school


and/or community . . . . . . . . . . . . ..49


vi I


Grades 7-12


UNIT ONE What Is Waste? .


53


Activity 1: To investigate the origins and vocabulary


of waste . . .. .. . . . . . . . . . . . . ..53


Activity 2: To identify the components of waste


and their sources 54


Activity 3: To familiarize students with the Garbage Gremlin


as a representation of our wasteful habits . . . . 54


UNIT TWO How do we manage our waste? 55


Activity 4: To explore current methods of waste


disposal and management . . . . . . . . . . 55


Activity 5: To introduce students to the principles


of waste combustion 56


Activity 6: To introduce students to the principles


of land disposal . 61


Activity 7: To familiarize students with modern


sanitary landfills . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62


Activity 8: To sensitize students to the problems of litter . . 64


Activity 9: To increase students’ awareness of the


quantities of waste in their own community


and the costs of disposal and management . . . 65


UNIT THREE How does waste affect our resources? 67


Activity 10: To introduce students to the concept


of natural resources . . . . . 67


Activity 11: To introduce the concept of renewable-versus


nonrenewable natural resources 68


Activity 12: To acquaint students with the components


of solid waste . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .70


Activity 13: To identify the sources of natural resources and


gain an appreciation of their scarcity . . . . . . 72


Activity 14: To explore energy as a resource and discuss


different sources of energy . . . . . . . 73


UNIT FOUR How can we produce less waste? 75


Activity 15: To introduce students to the concept


of source reduction . . . . . . . . . .


Activity 16: To explore historical changes that


have contributed to increased waste . . .


Activity 17: To help students appreciate the contribution


of packaging to the solid waste stream . . 75 76 77 79 80 81


Activity 18: To explore options for reducing packaging


Activity 19: To introduce students to the idea that


certain types of waste can be reused . .


Activity 20: To explore options for reducing the


toxicity of products . . . . . . . . . .


vii UNIT FIVE What Can We Do About Waste? . . . . . . . . . . . . 83


Activity 21: 10 introduce students to the concept


of natural cycles, and how they can


be disturbed 83


Activity 22: To demonstrate the principles of the. . . . . . . . ..


water cycle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85


Activity 23: To demonstrate the nutrient cycle . . . . . . . 85


Activity 24: To introduce students to the principles


. of composting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86


Activity 25: To acquaint students with the meaning of


the word “recycle” and the recycling symbol 89


Activity 26: To review solid waste problems and learn how


glass, paper, plastic, used oil, aluminum, yard


waste, and tin-plated steel cans are recycled . . . 90


Activity 27: To investigate a common manufacturing


process, its use of resources, and its


production of waste 93


Activity 28: To encourage students to design a


system to separate recyclable . . . . . . . . 93


Activity 29: To involve students in a classroom or


community-wide recycling effort . . . . . . . . 94


Activity 30: To calculate how much money a


community could save by recycling. . . . . . . 95


Activity 31: To explore attitudes toward recycling and buying


products made from recycled materials . . . . . 96


Activity 32: To involve students in the waste


management decision-making process . . . . . 97


Activity 33: To determine the availability of products made


from recycled materials in the marketplace . . . 100


Activity 34: To conduct a debate on the pros and cons of


the returnable versus the no-deposit,


no-return bottle 101


Activity 35: To explore the contributions that business and


government can make to the recycling effort . . . 102


Activity 36: To allow students an opportunity to educate


the school and community about solid waste


management . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102


,


Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105


Throwaway Three -A Short Skit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115


State Solid Waste Agencies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123


Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 129


Evaluation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .141


,..


viii I


INTRODUCTION


In the United States today we too often discard items that in earlier times would have been


repaired or saved for other uses. In fact, many modern products are designed for a


relatively short life followed by a speedy trip to the refuse pile. As a nation, we currently


produce about 180 million tons of municipal solid waste a year. This quantity of solid waste


is enough to fill a convoy of garbage trucks stretching halfway to the moon!


How we can manage all of this waste in an environmentally sound manner is a complex and


often controversial issue. Water pollution can result not only from dumping trash directly


into the lakes, rivers, and seas, but also from runoff and leaching from dumps. Air


pollution can result from faulty combustion and from decomposition gases surfacing in


landfllls. Fires, explosions, noxious odors, rodents, and disease also must be guarded


against in landfills. And direct contact with refuse can be dangerous in some cases to the


public as well as to the waste collectors and processors (who, incidentally, have among the


highest on-the-job injury rates of any occupation in the nation).


Our disposal options are steadily being reduced. The so-called “open dump” is now an


anachronism; it has been gradually phased out because of its potentially unsafe and


unsightly conditions. Although more than 70 percent of our garbage is currently buried in


, landfills, more than one-third of the nation’s landfills will be full within the next few years.


Locating sites for new landfills (even facilities designed with state-of-the-art safeguards) is


getting more difficult all the time due to economic constraints and public concern over


[ human health and siting near neighborhoods.


Much of the opposition to landfills has been based on perceptions of possible pollution,


health, and safety problems. In actuality, many of these problems can be avoided or


controlled by proper siting, design, and operation of disposal facilities. New regulations for


landfill design ensure that newly constructed landfills will remain safe for many years into


,


the future. We are producing, however, an increasing amount of waste each year; by the


year 2000, we are projected to generate 216 million tons per year. Waste disposal costs are


also soaring. Longer hauling distances from metropolitan areas to landfill sites and more


stringent environmental regulations push costs upwards, as do general increases in labor


costs and rising land values. In some areas of the country, it can cost as much as $100 per


ton or more to dispose of waste.


1 I


There is no single, simple solution to our communities’ solid waste problem. To effectively


reduce solid waste management problems, communities need to consider a hierarchy of


integrated waste management techniques. The term “integrated waste management” refers


to the complementary use of a variety of waste management practices to safely and


effectively handle municipal solid waste with the least harmful impacts on health and the


environment. The hierarchy consists of three levels: first, source reduction; second,


recycling; and third, combustion and landfill.


At the top of the hierarchy is source reduction, or reducing both the amount and the toxicity


of the waste we generate. Manufacturers may contribute to source reduction by designing


and manufacturing products that contain fewer toxics and less packaging. As consumers,


we can use our buying power to select more durable and nondisposable products, products


that have more than one “life,” and those with less packaging and fewer toxic components.


One of the best ways to lessen our waste disposal problems is to reuse many of the things


we have habitually thrown out.


Recycling, including composting of food and yard waste, is the next tier of the hierarchy.


Widespread recycling efforts prevent potentially useful materials from being placed in


landfills or combusted, thus preserving our limited capacity for disposal. Reuse of


materials also saves energy and natural resources. It is good for American business and can


help the economy. For example, aluminum cans, paper, and used oil (among many other


items) can be reprocessed to make new products. The emphasis in “Let’s Reduce and


Recycle: Curriculum for Solid Waste Awareness” is on source reduction and recycling.


Waste combustion and landfill are next in the hierarchy of integrated waste management.


Combustion reduces the bulk of municipal waste, while providing the added benefit of


energy production. Source reduction and recycling can make combustion and landfill safer


and more efficient by reducing the quantity and toxicity of the waste and removing


recyclables that may be difficult to combust or may cause potentially harmful emissions.


Landfill will continue to be the major method of solid waste disposal for the near future. It


is needed to handle waste that cannot be recycled or safely combusted. Also, residual ash


from waste combustion must be disposed of in specially designed landfills. It is likely that


there will always be some portion of waste requiring landfill no matter how efficient our


reduction, recovery, treatment, and recycling processes become. We can, however, greatly


reduce this portion by becoming aware of our own individual contributions to the solid


waste problem and modifying our habits to promote wise use and reuse of our valuable


resources.


It is no longer possible to hide the “garbage crisis” from the public eye. It threatens to


weaken our cities and consume valuable portions of our natural resource base. The cost to


communities of handling increasing quantities of solid waste diverts public funds from


other important needs such as education and police and fire protection. The school system


is an invaluable tool for increasing public awareness of this problem. Teachers are in an


excellent position to enlighten our younger citizens about how solid waste problems relate


to them, and how they can contribute to a solution.


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