Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Editor's Corner

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Editor's Corner

Article excerpt

In this issue, Heather McPherson describes an activity in which she asks her students, "Where does all that stuff go?" (pp. 32-37). This got me thinking about the "going green" mantra: Reduce, reuse, recycle.

If you are like me, you probably fill your recycling bin faster than the household trash container. This is a good thing. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2013 Americans recycled or composted about 87 million metric tons of municipal solid waste--items like product packaging, paper, glass, cans, and yard trimmings--and the rate of recycling (34%) increased more than 300% over the past several decades. The effects are dramatic. Every ton of paper recycled can save the energy equivalent of 166 gallons of gasoline; for aluminum cans, each ton saves a whopping 1,234 gallons.

In 2013 alone, recycling and composting eliminated 186 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of taking 39 million passenger vehicles off the road. It saved an amount of energy equal to that consumed by over 10 million U.S. households (EPA 2013).

When we look at trash generation, however, the picture becomes less rosy. The average American generates 4.4 pounds of waste every day. Over the course of a year, we each produce over 600 pounds more trash today than we did 50 years ago. As a nation, we create a staggering 254 million tons of trash annually, almost three times the amount produced in 1960 (EPA 2013). …

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