The city of San Francisco has one of the most comprehensive curbside recycling and composting programs in the country. Compostable waste collected in San Francisco is sent to a huge composting facility where it eventually breaks down into nutrient-rich soil. That soil is then sold to local organic farms and vineyards throughout the Bay Area. Recyclable waste is sent off to various facilities where it is broken down and reformed into new products. Although this program makes it easy to keep trash from ending up in the landfill, it can be confusing to remember which things can be recycled, which can be composted, and which trash items must be thrown away.
Every city has very specific guidelines about which types of trash can be recycled and composted. It is important for us to understand these guidelines, so that we can make the most of these programs. Putting trash in with recyclables costs the city and taxpayers money and decreases the productivity of the recycling programs. In addition, tons of recyclables and compostables are thrown into the garbage and end up in landfills every year, simply due to a lack of knowledge. The goal of this activity is to arm students with information about recycling and composting so that they can make correct choices when disposing of their waste.
Trash that can be recycled or composted should not end up in the trash. Landfills take up valuable land space, produce toxic methane gas because of the decomposition process, and require money and resources to maintain. In addition, organic waste like food scraps and lawn trimmings that biodegrade easily in nature take a significantly longer amount of time to break down in a landfill.
This activity is perfect for the first week of class, when classroom recycling rules should be set in place and followed throughout the year.
For further background information, here is a table detailing what goes in each bin in San Francisco:
|Styrofoam||Aluminum cans||Banana peels|
|Plastic sandwich bags||Used paper||Milk carton |
|Wire hangers ||All plastic tubs/lids||Bread|
|Straws||All plastic bottles||Soiled cardboard|
|Potato chip bags||Aluminum/Tin foil||Apple core|
|Saran wrap ||Glass bottle ||Meat, nuts, bones|
| ||Coffee cup lids ||Waxed cardboard|