DIY Waste Management
- Identify what can be diverted from the landfill to the composter
- Describe the impact that landfills have on the environment
Methane emissions are a substantial contributor to greenhouse gases (9% domestically) and tend to be at the core of the climate change debate. More than 50% of the waste added each day to landfills in the US is food waste, accounting for approximately 18% of methane emissions in 2012. As these scraps break down under anaerobic conditions they emit methane in substantial quantities not to mention the leachate – liquid by-product from the decomposition process – that seeps into the ground threatening precious ground and surface water.
Composting those same food scraps, on the other hand, under aerobic conditions produces carbon dioxide as a by-product. What may be surprising is that methane has a global warming potential more than 20 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. The composting process is less impactful than that of the landfill and it serves as a mechanism to recapture nutrients – in the form of a valuable nutrient dense soil amendment – that would otherwise be removed from the food production cycle.
Reducing what goes into the landfill by composting more food scraps, recycling what we can, upcycling and repurposing items in unique ways, and then disposing of what is truly trash could have a significant impact.
The Whitehouse has taken steps to change the direction our Country is taking in response to its role in the climate change debate with the Climate Action Plan and Executive Order. As educators, be it teachers, parents, siblings, or neighbors, we need to inform the youngest generation so that they might continue our efforts with greater commitment and fervor.
Tools & Materials
- 4 buckets
- Paper and marker to label buckets
- Carbon dioxide
- Climate change
Introduction (10 minutes)
Begin the lesson by asking Students how many bags of garbage their families produce. Then ask how many are recycling. And finally, ask how many are composting. How much could their families save from the landfill each week if they were recycling and composting everything that they could?
Activity (20 minutes)
For this lesson, prepare four buckets for sorting garbage and label them: garbage for the landfill, recycling, composting, upcycling. Stage a bag of garbage that includes waste that will be sorted into each of the four buckets. Have the Students sort everything themselves and provide oversight to ensure they make the proper decisions. If an item is tossed into the wrong bucket stop the process and discuss the item with the group.
Discussion (10 minutes)
What can we do in our lab to reduce the amount of compostable material that is sent to the landfill? Should we start a collection program so that all of us can bring our food scraps from home for composting? Could that be expanded to include a local restaurant?
Assessment (5 minutes)
Use the following questions to assess the Students before and after the lesson. Tally the responses of the group in the Assessment Tracking Log for comparison:
- By a show of hands, how many of you know what can be composted and what has to go to the dump?
- Now that you understand what is compostable, how many of you think you could compost more stuff at home and send less to the dump?
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