Household Waste - That's Garbage!
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word “garbage”?
Smelly? Gross? Disgusting? It Stinks!
Garbage isn’t a very nice thing to have around. That’s why we make sure to put our garbage in the trash can where it belongs. But did you ever think about what happens to garbage after you throw it away?
Garbage trucks take our trash to landfills, where it is buried under layers of soil. But just because you can’t see your trash anymore doesn’t mean that it disappears. Over time, some kinds of trash will rot away (decompose) but this can take many years. For example, a banana peel can break down in less than a month, but a plastic pop bottle takes much longer.
How long do you think it takes for a plastic pop bottle to decompose after you throw it away?
2 months? 1 year? 150 years? 450 years?
Take a look at how long it takes things to decompose including that pop bottle:
Even if you’re careful to avoid excess waste when you shop, sooner or later you’re going to have to throw something away. Before you put it in the trash can, ask yourself, “Is it really garbage?”
Here are some things to think about:
1. Can it be reused?
Lots of times we throw away items that can still be used. For example, an old peanut butter jar can be used to hold small toys, or a soup can works great as a pencil cup. If you’ve only written on one side of a piece of paper, save it to use the back side for scrap paper. Your old winter coat might not fit you anymore, but it might still be useful to someone else, like a younger cousin or the neighbor kid.
Be creative! Here are some fun ideas from Kinder Art of things you can make with items you might otherwise throw away - ART RECYCLED
2. Can it be recycled?
Recycling means to process an old product into a new one. For example, when you return an aluminum pop can to the store, the can gets melted down and a new can is made out of the metal. Many materials, including glass, plastic, paper, and metal can be recycled, saving energy and creating less waste for landfills.
Visit the National Recycling Coalition's CONVERSIONATOR to follow the journey of a pop bottle, can, or jar on its way to be recycled.
3. Can it be composted?
Composting is nature’s recycling system. Organic materials (items made out of things that were once living, such as plants) can be piled together and left to decompose (to break down with the help of microorganisms). Over time, items you once recognized, such as banana peels, apple cores, newspaper, or leaves will transform into a black, soil-like substance called humus. This humus contains lots of nutrients and can be mixed into your garden to help new plants grow healthy and strong. By composting, we not only keep lots of smelly, soggy garbage out of the landfill, but we create something that is valuable and truly useful out of what would have been wasted.
Learn all about how to start composting from Texas A&M University at: COMPOSTING FOR KIDS 1
4. Is it hazardous?
Many items, such as cleaning products, batteries, bug spray, or paint, contain chemicals that may be dangerous if they got into the environment. Although landfills are made with thick liners that are supposed to prevent leaks, sometimes the liners break down and chemicals from these hazardous products contaminate the soil and the water. Instead of throwing these items into the garbage, take them to your local Household Hazardous Waste Collection Center to be disposed of properly. You can find your nearest Collection Center by calling your county health department listed in the Your Local Resources section of this website.
Greening Your Home or School is next!