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Once a week we will be featuring a fun and/or educational activity you can try at home or in the classroom.

Animals forage in trash on the southern edge of Port-au-Prince.

With Earth Day only a week away -- April 22 --  my mind is on garbage and what it does to our awesome planet. This experiment is a great way to find out what happens to garbage when we throw it in the trash.

When we throw something "away" does it really go away? What kinds of garbage break down the easiest? The fastest? The most? Let's find out.

What you need:

  • A plastic container (like a yogurt cup)
  • 3 types of garbage (for example: vegetable peels, egg shells, mushrooms, nut shells, paper, aluminum foil or plastic)
  • Soil (from your yard, not potting soil)

Directions:

  • Fill a plastic container halfway with soil.
  • Add a little water, but only enough to make the soil wet, not watery.
  • Bury three kinds of garbage in the soil, one from each of the sets below:
  1. Vegetable peelings, bread, food leftovers
  2. Egg shells, nut shells, paper
  3. Aluminum foil, plastic, a penny
  • Make a list of the garbage and check it every day for changes.
  • Be sure the soil stays damp. Add a teaspoon of water each day, if necessary.

Make a chart to record your observations. Which materials break down the fastest, the most and the easiest? Which materials show no signs of breaking down?

After this experiment, think about the garbage you throw away. What can you do to lessen the materials that are hardest to break down? One way to lessen the materials is to compost. We will be offering several composting activities in the upcoming months like this blog post about worm bins and their valuable fertilizer.

Or read this article about food waste in America and what you can do about it.

You can find this and many other fun and informative activities in the Classroom Resources section of Heifer International’s website.

Author

Linda Meyers

Linda Meyers, an Arkansas transplant originally from St. Louis, Mo., started working at Heifer International in 2011. She enjoys dragging her three children on nature hikes and snapping photos of them and everything around her. She has a bachelor’s degree in English has been “in the process” of writing the great American novel for 24 years.