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Trash is anything we don't want.

Food, paper plates, broken toys, old clothes, empty shampoo bottles,
old homework--once you throw it away, it's called garbage, waste, or trash. 

Trash isn't made by any one person. Everyone makes trash. You, your mother, your father, your teacher,
your best friend... every person on this earth contributes to the amount of garbage on our planet. Each
American produces an average of 4 pounds of waste a day. That's 210 million tons of trash total every
year. 

So where does it all go? You might think that once you throw your garbage in the trash can or once your
parents take it out to the curb, that the trash men take it away and make it magically disappear. 

What really happens is that once your trash is picked up, it's taken to a landfill. A landfill is a designated
place for trash to be discarded. Landfills are designed so that odors from trash are reduced and so that
waste is separated from the surrounding environment. A thick lining of plastic separates the trash from
the ground to prevent waste from mixing with groundwater and soil. 

You might hear the word "environment" used on a daily basis, but you may not know what it means.
Your environment is where you live. Your house, your school, your city, state, country.. All of these are a
part of your environment. In fact, the entire world is your environment. When we refer to the
environment we mean the entire Earth; each and every city, field, forest, river, and ocean is part of our
environment. 

Litter is trash that has not been disposed of properly. Trash that has been thrown on the side of the road
or in a lake instead of in a trash can is litter. 

You might have noticed litter while you were having a picnic in the park, or maybe you've seen it while
riding in the car on the way to the store. You probably thought it looked pretty gross. But litter doesn't
just make things look ugly; it's harmful to the environment, too. 

Litter can attract rats and vermin and cause health problems. It can also harm animals and wildlife, and
ruin the quality of water when thrown into rivers or lakes. Polluted water isn’t safe to drink, and
polluted soil can’t grow plants and food to eat. 

Pollution is contamination that harms the environment or the people or animals living in the
environment. If you live in or have ever visited a large city, you might have noticed that the air is filled
with smoke. That smoke is air pollution. Air isn't the only thing that can be polluted. Water and soil can
be polluted too. 
Have you ever heard the term the "3Rs"? If you have, you might have wondered what it meant. 3Rs
refers to three terms often used when talking about waste: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. 

Reducing is cutting back on the amount of trash we make, reusing is finding a new way to use trash so
that we don't have to throw it out, and recycling is using trash to remake new goods that can be sold
again. 

Why should we use the 3Rs? It's not like we need to worry about what happens to our trash after we put
it in the trashcan, right? Wrong! Think about how much you toss out each day. If you multiply that by
the 6.7 billion people on our planet... That's a lot of trash! Our landfills can only hold so much garbage. If
we keep producing so much waste, we'll run out of room. Using the 3Rs will help us cut back the amount
of trash we throw away. 

Reducing is simply creating less waste. It's also the best method for keeping our earth clean. Why?
Because it stops the problem at the source. By making less waste in the first place, there's less mess to
clean up. 

Here are a few ways you can help reduce the amount of waste you make: 

Pack your lunch in a lunchbox instead of a disposable bag. Although it might be easier to throw away a
paper or plastic bag than to carry around a lunchbox, disposable bags create much more trash. If you
attend a regular American school that meets 180 days a year, and bring your lunch every day in a
reusable lunchbox, you could save 180 bags. If all kids did that, think of how many less bags there would
be in landfills! 

Also, pack your lunch items in reusable containers instead of disposable ones. Instead of putting your
peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a plastic bag, try using some Tupperware that you can use again and
again. 

Ask your parents to bring their own bags when shopping. Many grocery stores now sell canvas bags
that can be brought and reused over and over when shopping. Think about all the plastic or paper
grocery bags that could be saved if everyone reused the same canvas bags to carry their groceries in! 

Turn off lights when you're not using them. Even though you might not be able to see the waste made
from leaving on the lights, it wastes electricity and energy. Cutting back on the amount of electricity you
use will not only help the environment, but it will save your parents money too.

Make sure your faucets aren't dripping. After you wash your hands, brush your teeth, or get out of the
bath, make sure there's no water dripping from your faucets. Fresh water is a very precious resource,
and dripping faucets waste water. 

Reusing is taking old items that you might consider throwing away and finding a new use for them.
Reusing helps in situations where it isn't possible to reduce. 

Here are ways you can reuse items to prevent trash from being created: 

Donate clothes that no longer fit you. Instead of throwing away clothes that don't fit, or that you don't
like anymore, give them to someone who will want them. Your friends may have younger brothers or
sisters who would be able to fit things you've outgrown, or maybe your parents have friends with
children who could use them. Even if you don't know anyone who needs your old clothes, you could
donate them to a consignment store or a charity so that your clothes will find a home. 

You can also donate toys you no longer want. Just like with clothes, unwanted toys can be donated to
charities or friends who could use them. 

Use plastic groceries bags as trash bags. If your parents often bring home bags from the grocery store,
you can ask them to save them instead of throwing them away. Grocery bags can be used as trash bags
for small trashcans instead of being thrown away. 

Have your parents use worn clothing as cleaning rags. For old clothes that may be too ripped or worn
to give away, ask your parents to use those to clean up the house instead of buying cleaning rags. Old t-
shirts work well for dusting. 

Recycling is the most often advertised of the 3Rs, so it's likely you've heard of it before. Recycling is
changing old products into new ones so they can be resold. For example, when you set out bottles and
cans to be recycled, they are taken to a plant where they can be reprocessed into many new things.
They may be changed in to new bottles or cans, or they could be changed into things like bicycles or
asphalt. 

The most well-known recycled materials are glass, paper, plastic, and aluminum. Other recyclable


materials include batteries, biodegradable waste (like plants and kitchen waste), concrete, electronics,
ferrous metals (like steel and iron), textiles (materials like cotton), and timber. 

The recycling loop describes the entire recycling process. 

First, recycling starts when you or your parents drop materials to be recycled, like bottles and cans, on
the curb. 
Secondly, collectors come to pick up the materials and take them to a processing plant where they are
sorted and processed into raw materials (or materials that can be used to make new items.) 
Next, the materials from the plant are sold to manufacturers, or people who make the things you buy.
These manufacturers make new items from them. 
Finally, you or your parents buy items made from recycled materials, so the process can start all over
again.