Garbage Collection

3, 4, 5

Students participate in a trash clean-up and analyze the issue of pollution due to trash, especially plastics. They discuss who should be responsible for preventing or cleaning up pollution - government, business, charitable organizations, and/or individuals.

PrintOne 45-Minute Session

The learner will:

  • participate in a trash collection.
  • measure, graph and analyze the collected trash.
  • discuss the responsibility to prevent pollution from trash and to address the issue of trash.
  • Trash containers
  • Plastic gloves
  • paper and pencil for recording

pollution: contamination of the natural environment with harmful substances as a consequence of human activity


  1. Anticipatory Set

    Walk around the neighborhood or an area where trash accumulates with a trashbag and gloves, as well as paper and pencil for recording the trash found. For safety, do not pick up sharp or potentially contaminated items, but record them on the paper.

    Alternative: Tell the students they will be participating in a contest - a trash collection contest. Allow the students to self-select into work teams and give them plastic gloves and trash containers (one trash bag or trash container per group). Take them outside to an area where there is some litter. Allow the students to decide on a reasonable time limit in which to pick up as much litter as they can. Be sure to give them safety tips and to avoid picking up harmful litter.

  2. Have each student predict how much trash they will collect in a half hour. They will be competing against their own predictions. If they collect the same or more than they predicted, they win.

  3. Back at school or home, measure the trash collected by volume or weight, or they may count the number of items collected and recorded.

  4. Students create a graph to track collection data. The trash can be categorized and graphed such as plastic, papers, metal.

  5. Recycle as many of the items collected as possible. Make sure the students dispose of the gloves safely and wash their hands. As an alternative, if your group is in an area where this outdoor activity is not an option, have the students discuss the types of litter they have observed in parks and on the street.

  6. Ask:

    1. How did this garbage end up on the ground? (People may be careless or it may have blown out of the garbage cans)
    2. What types of trash were most common - plastic, paper, metal, organic materials? (This can be an estimate or actual counting/graphing of collected trash.)
    3. Who should be responsible for preventing or cleaning up trash? What role can and should the government, businesses, and/or charitable organizations (such as a local service organization that adopts a section of highway to keep clean) play in preventing or cleaning up pollution from trash?
    4. How do you think we as individuals can reduce trash pollution in our community?
  7. Tell the students that they will be learning about one large source of pollution in the world that they can do something about -plastic bags.


Assess the student's ability to work cooperatively with their group during the trash collection. Assess student participation during the discussion.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Give examples of needs met by government, business, civil society, and family.
  2. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark E.1 Provide a needed service.