Back to School Special: What are you going to throw away this school year?

Posted Tue, 08/14/2018 - 11:29


The days are getting shorter and cooler, and soon teachers and students alike must say goodbye to the lazy, hazy days of summer. The new school year can be a new beginning, so why not take this time to build some better habits in the classroom? If you want to reduce the amount of waste your class produces, a great way to start is to understand what you already throw away and recycle. Figure out how much waste your class creates through a trash audit!

Students sort waste in classroom.
Students in Alaska sort and count the waste generated in their school (Photo: Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies).

Trash audits are easy. First, your students will need somewhere to write things down. The Trash Tracker worksheet in An Educator’s Guide to Marine Debris is a great example of what your worksheet could look like. Next, have your students write down everything they throw away or recycle everyday for the next week. This easy activity is a great way to really examine the impact we have. We throw so much away without thinking about it. At the end of the week, have the students tally all the waste they threw away and brainstorm ideas of how they can reduce their trash that may become marine debris. Did they recycle a lot of drink bottles? Using a reusable bottle might work for them. Are there a surprising amount of chip bags tallied on their sheet? Next time they can ask their parents to buy in bulk and get some reusable snack bags. Is their straw count pretty high? Ask the cafeteria to go strawless.  

Students sort waste outside.
Students in California sort their classroom’s waste as part of a waste audit (Photo: Megan van Hamersveld)

This activity is great for anyone, but if you are heading back to school as a student, this is also a great opportunity to get others involved in your marine debris mission. Complete regular trash audits with your class, club, or new dorm mates and challenge each other to see who can reduce the most waste over the course of the school year. Beach days are coming to a close for most of us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help the beach all year long.  

Back to School Special: What are you going to throw away this school year?

Posted Tue, 08/14/2018 - 11:29

For citation purposes, unless otherwise noted, this article was authored by the NOAA Marine Debris Program.

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Thu, 08/16/2018 - 14:46

These are great recommendations! And a way to show kids their impact and how to better manage it.