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North Carolina University Whats in Your Garbage Environmental Biology Discussion

LA6 Learning Activity: “What’s in Your Garbage?”

We were all raised on the mantra “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” in regards to better managing municipal solid waste for the sake of the environment. While it makes for great alliteration, it also lists the order of importance in the effort to keep MSW out of the waste stream: 1. REDUCE the amount of waste in the first place; 2. REUSE items so they don’t wind up in the waste stream; 3. RECYCLE items that can be recycled so they don’t end up in a landfill.

While most emphasis is placed on recycling efforts, it is reducing the amount of waste we generate before it even goes to any sort of waste or recycling receptacle that is MOST important in the overall effort. There are some who feel that recycling, while important, gives us a false sense of security that we are doing the best for the environment when we only practice this part of the initiative. For example: While it is important to recycle our single-serve plastic water bottles and plastic dishware, it is more important that we not use plastic bottles and plastic dishware to begin with–that instead we use refillable/reusable water bottles and reusable/washable dishware, thus reducing the amount of waste that must be managed.

For this week’s assignment, keeping the aforementioned in mind, adress the following questions:

How much waste do you generate? Look into your waste bin at the end of the day and categorize and measure your waste there, as well as accounting for all of the waste you generated during the day.

  • How much of this waste could you have avoided?–Reused, recycled, or composted?
  • What practices could you put into place to REDUCE the amount waste that ended up in your recycling bin today (i.e., use a refillable water bottle instead of buying bottled water)?


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