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UNLESS Contest Waste

Focus Challenge: Waste


In order to accomplish the things we need, people can often create a lot of waste. In fact, Americans create over 254 million tons of landfill waste each year. Landfill waste is defined as anything that we throw out as garbage that ends up in landfills, which are large areas of land where we store trash. Efforts to rethink, refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle the way we use material items can prevent waste from ending up in a landfill. In fact, over 75% of all waste can be recycled in some way.

Climate Change and Waste

The waste we produce is also a major factor in climate change. This includes everything from foam take out containers to food waste to clothes that get thrown out. When materials end up in landfills, it decomposes and starts to produce greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane. Production of new products (including harvesting new materials or manufacturing) to replace waste is also a huge factor, as is requires energy and water.

Consider This…

  • What are some actions that create waste?
  • What are ways to properly dispose of waste?
  • How can we rethink, refuse, reduce, reuse, or recycle the materials that we use?
  • Are there alternative materials that can be recommended to create less waste?
  • How would these alternatives be helpful to people?
  • Is this a good solution for everyone, or just certain people?
  • How can we learn more from different perspectives?
  • How can we use our understanding to help wildlife?

Explore Further

Interested in growing your understanding of waste? Check out the activities below! These can be distributed directly to students through your virtual classroom or sent via email, or can be printed and distributed to students in person.

Reporting Your Results

Make sure to keep track of everything you do and share as much of your story as possible, such as:

  • How many events or waste programs did you host or create? What were they?
  • What were you hoping to accomplish?
  • How much (quantity, weight, material) waste were you able to divert from landfills?
  • How many gallons of water were saved?
  • How many CO2 emissions were conserved?
  • What immediate and future implications does your work have on local animals and people?

Note: If your group isn’t able to weigh the items that you collect, do your best to estimate what the weight might be. For example: A plastic gallon milk carton weighs about 60 grams, or 0.1322 lbs. If you know you collected 50 milk cartons, then you diverted 6.61 lbs. of plastic from landfills.