Garbology by Joshua and Sean

We live in Birmingham, Alabama. We know that three ways to eliminate pollution are to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Our teachers are always encouraging us to recycle used paper, but we wanted to investigate more about the other two Rs, reduce and reuse. We got some great ideas from the Southern Environmental Center in Birmingham. We decided to do a study of our own right here at school. Our question: what kind of waste is our school producing, and how can we reduce it?

What did we do?
Firs we put on our science safety gear—goggles, masks, and gloves—to go dumpster diving in the school trash bin. We couldn’t believe all the waste we saw that was actually recyclable. So we decided to collect trash from 10 classrooms for a single day, just to demonstrate how much waste at our school could be recycled instead of thrown into the dumpster. We weighed the trash and then sorted it into piles of metal, paper, glass, plastic, and true trash (which can’t be recycled). We weighed each category individually to figure out the percentage of each kind of material.

What did we find out?
We made pie chart art and the data was astonishing! We learned that 86% of the trash from these 10 classrooms was recyclable. When we examined the 14% that was true trash, we discovered that some of this material, such as a perfectly good pencil, could be reused. So we decided to look into starting a recycling program for our school. But first, we took a field trip to the recycling center for the city of Birmingham. There we found out that aluminum can be recycled indefinitely and paper up to seven times before it truly is trash. In the end, our garbology investigation made us realize that the 3 Rs really make sense!

What can you do?