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Want Not
River Bend's Waste Reduction Unit for the Students of Rice County

Waste Education Units

Waste Education Overview   |   Waste Recycling   |   Waste Reduction

Revised December 13, 2011

Teacher's Box

When preparing to talk about Waste Reduction, or when preparing for a River Bend staff visit, you will want to cover some different ideas and concepts with students.

  • Our waste HAS to go SOMEWHERE, and when it is put into the landfill, the waste is not gone, but just out of sight. Waste can either pile up or be buried somewhere in Rice County. What are some ways that we can reduce the amount of waste that we produce? In Rice County we recycle 60% of our waste, but our landfill is still filling up quickly.
  • Each person generates between 3 and 5 pounds of waste per day. All of the citizens of Rice County produce over 150 tons per day.
  • When thinking about the three R's - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle - we often jump right to recycling. What can we do to reduce waste that focuses more on reducing and reusing?

Depending on student interest, some topics that go along with Waste Reduction are those relating to sustainability, solid waste management, composting, and school wide waste reduction. For more information on waste reduction in Rice County, contact River Bend Nature Center.

NEW! Waste Reduction review fun sheet - PDF

Isn't recycling enough?

In Rice County, 3 out of every 5 pounds of waste is recycled and recycling is something we all do, or should be doing. When we look at what can be recycled, those things rarely get made in to what they once were. Often times, items such as soda bottles and various food containers made from plastics are turned into something else, using new plastic to then make more soda bottles. Recycling is a great way to help reduce the amount of waste that goes into our landfill, but there are other choices we can begin to make to help make an even bigger impact. We need to begin "closing the loop," by buying products made from the things we recycle, such as recycled school paper, recycled tissue, and clothing from plastic bottles. No matter how much we recycle, we still produce waste, but what other choices can we make to cut back on what goes into the landfill? (see also our Recycling page)

What is a Consumer Culture?

A consumer culture is the idea that we like to buy things that are new rather than buying things that have been used before by someone else. If we want to stop putting so much in our landfills and move towards reducing our waste, we have to start making better choices.

For a lot of people, they want to buy the easiest things to make from the grocery store. From individually wrapped juice boxes, to individually wrapped bags of chips, to Lunchables, people are paying more for smaller amounts of food, just for the fact that it may take less effort to prepare. By buying these smaller packages we naturally produce more waste. What choices can we make to cut down on how much goes into our landfill?

As a whole we have improved greatly since the first days of shopping made easy through convenience, yet there are choices that we can still make. You have to choose to buy things in bulk, or with less packaging, like milk in a bag, cereal in a bag, big bags of chips, juice mix envelopes, etc.

What are the three R's anyway, and what do they mean to me?

The three R's stand for Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Many Minnesotans are familiar with the idea of recycling; soda cans, paper, glass, and plastic can be recycled. For many though, the three R's stop there with recycling. Actually, of the three R's, reducing the amount of garbage we create is most important. From there we should reuse what we can, and then recycle.

Reusing what you can

The idea of reusing a product is one that may not appeal to a lot of people, but it is one that is now becoming more commonplace, from baby clothes exchanges to rechargeable batteries. Many years ago, people reused everything they could when they did not have the money buy the newest things. Items had to last more than just one year. One way people used to keep using clothing would be buy selling and buying used clothing at second hand stores, or at local yard sales. Now, for us as consumers, we must also make choices to get clothing that will last longer.

Reducing waste

Reducing is a way that we can all make a difference in what we waste, every day. The average person produces between 3 to 5 pounds per day. While lots of people recycle, around 50% of waste that ends up in the landfill is made up of paper, glass, metal and plastic - most of which could be recycled or reused. Another 14% of our trash is made up of food waste which could be reduced or possibly even composted. A way to reduce is to buy certain things in bulk rather than buying lots of little packages that produce more waste.

If it does not get reduced, reused, or recycled, it has to go somewhere, and everything we waste takes up space. What are some things that can be reused and not thrown away? How can we buy products in a way that helps us reduce waste?

What are some ways to reduce waste at home or in my class?

There are lots of different ideas for reducing the amount of waste we produce at home or in school, or even in an office. Here are some simple ones to start with in your classroom or in your own home. Reducing waste usually means saving money, so your families will like that idea.

  • Begin "closing the loop."
  • Watch your waste for a week and reduce that amount.
  • Buy products with less packaging and packing materials, such as cereal in large bags.
  • Reuse plastic grocery bags, or buy canvas bags. Some stores will even give you a small discount if you bring back grocery bags to use.
  • Make sure that packaging is made from recycled material.
  • Donate certain items to second hand stores or charities.
  • Buy clothing and other items from second hand stores.
  • Compost your food and other organic waste.

How can composting help?

There are many types of composting which people use to help get rid of their organic waste and to help cut down on the total amount of waste they produce. Food waste, yard waste and anything organic can be composted depending on the type of composting method used. The material created from the composting can be used then in gardens or plants to help them grow. Organic waste is plant scraps, food, pieces of vegetables, etc. If a lot of what we waste can be recycled, and then more can be composted, the amount of waste which goes to the landfill is greatly reduced, saving space for now and for the future.

Click here to learn more about composting!

Resources on the web

Visit River Bend's website for the Recycling unit
Rice County Solid Waste Department
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's
Minnesota Materials Exchange

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