Day 2: What is Recycling and “Source Separation?”

Day 2: What is Recycling and “Source Separation?”

1) Video: Please share with your students this 5 min video about the new source separation (recycling) system they will see in the lunchroom and how they will be asked to sort their lunchroom waste.

Discussion topics following the video:
– What are the steps of the source separation? [Answer: Pour out liquids, separate juice containers, commingled plastics and aluminum, any other packaging, compost, stack trays]
– Why is it important to sort? [Answer: Sorting diverts waste into recycling and composting streams, and otherwise the waste becomes garbage and is sent to an incinerator or a landfill.  In fact 90% of what is leftover in a lunchroom can be recycled.]
– Did you know that sorting all your garbage into the different recyclables is the law?

2) Math: It costs a Westchester municipality $78 per ton in taxes for garbage disposal. Experts calculate that including labor, vehicle cost, fuel, street usage, etc., the “real cost” is around $300 per ton to burn garbage.

How much does it cost Westchester to burn 2,500 tons of garbage per day? (Answer $195,000 per day)

All recyclables that are sorted out are sold back as raw material to industry. Westchester sells one ton of PETE 1 plastic (the clear bottle plastic) for $800 to an intermediary, who cleans, washes and chips the plastic and sells it for $2,400 per ton to manufacturing industry. Plastics make up about 12% of our waste stream.

If 12% of all garbage is plastic that can be sold for $800 per ton, how much plastic is Westchester burning every day? (Answer: 300 tons or $240,000)

3) ELA Word Bank:
– What materials  are recyclable as commingled? (Answer: glass, metal such as aluminum, and plastics, which are sorted at the recycling plant)
Aluminum:  [Answer: A type of metal, mined from the earth just like iron, copper or gold]
Hard plastics: Plastics are a synthetic material made from various chemicals and molded into a hard shape.  There are many different types of hard plastics.  Did you know they are labeled with (triangle) numbers 1-7.  1-6 are different individual plastics and 7 is a mixed plastic.
– Soft plastics: Soft plastics are plastics that can be stretched without breaking, such as plastic bags, dry cleaning plastic wrap, loaf of bread wrappers, etc.  These plastics can be returned to a grocery store to be recycled. Clear or colored soft plastic is made from plastic number 4, but cannot be recycled just with commingled because it clogs the machines. Soft plastics with a shiny side are much harder to recycle and for now, we can not do it properly and will have to put them in the trash.
– Compost:  Food waste and yard waste mixed up, and then broken down by microorganisms eat it and transform it into decayed organic matter than can be used as plant fertilizer.

4) Science:
What happens when you burn plastic?
Outside activity: burn some plastic and observe black smoke.
What are problems connected to garbage?

5) Activity: A bag with different materials is available to you, ask the student to identify each material and sort each into either Commingled, Paper, Soft Plastics. Observe how a large bag of what many people consider trash, can be sorted completely into recyclables.

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