Trash. We interact with it every day and see at nearly every turn. Yet we rarely think about what happens to it after it leaves our hands and our trash cans. Our ever-growing human population coupled with a rise in economic development and material consumption around the world has resulted in an ever-expanding waste footprint. Where does this waste go? How does it impact our land, water quality, and communities? And perhaps most importantly as we look to the future, what strategies will effectively decrease the amount of waste sitting in our landfills?
These are the questions we will be exploring in the upcoming PopEd thematic quarter. And as always, the focus will be on how to bring these important topics into your classroom. Whether you teach kindergarten or AP Environmental Science, the materials we share in the coming weeks will help you engage students in the important and timely issues related to solid waste – product life cycles, packaging, electronic waste, environmental justice, composting and waste reduction strategies, and more.
Use #PopEdWaste to follow along on Facebook or Twitter for exclusive access to innovative PopEd lesson plans, student readings, infographics, and data visualizations that can be immediately implemented in your classroom.
Here is sneak peak of what’s to come…
- Trash Trouble in Paradise (high school lesson plan, environmental justice case study): Role playing a city council meeting, students weigh various real-world economic, social, and environmental factors when siting a landfill on the Hawaiian island of O‘ahu.
- Monitour E-Trash Transparency Project: How Does E-Waste Travel Across the World After Disposal?: This interactive website uses GPS to animate the paths of e-waste around the world.
- Scraps into Soil (elementary lesson plan, decomposition lab): Students gather materials and observe if and how they decompose over time in a natural setting.
Why Teach About Solid Waste?
Perhaps teaching about solid waste is in your curriculum framework. Or, maybe you simply want to teach a critical skill, like collecting and analyzing data, and know student engagement is significantly higher if these skills are taught in relation to a real-world concrete issue, like solid waste.
The World Bank estimates that about 2 billion tonnes of solid waste are generated annually around the world, and approximately one-third of that waste is not managed in an environmentally safe manner. Our waste footprint is expected to expand in the coming decades, topping 3.4 billion tonnes by 2050. This expansion is partially due to a growing human population, but also a result of urbanization and rising affluence around the world. Urbanization and economic development go hand in hand – as incomes rise, so does material consumption and waste production.
Understanding our current systems for waste management, as well as exploring the most effective methods for waste reduction is a crucial as we look to create a balance between people and our planet in the years ahead.