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Welcome to the Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

Here, you can find free sustainability lessons to use in your class and upload your own lessons to share. Be sure to rate the lessons you use and leave comments for your colleagues!

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Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

What Happens to Trash in a Landfill?

Lesson Description:
  • Identify and describe the problems and concerns people have about burying trash in landfills and justify their position on the matter.
  • Explain why the process of decomposition is very slow inside a landfill.
  • Evaluate the EPA’s five methods of integrated solid waste management and determine whether the EPA’s recommendation concerning landfills is justified.

Lesson Type:
  • Discussion
  • Group Work

Sustainability Topic:
  • Waste Reduction

GEF Program Category:
  • Waste Reduction Challenge

Time Needed:
50 minutes
Standards Addressed:
Geography Standard 15: Understand how physical systems affect human systems.
Benchmark # 4: Understand relationships between population density and environmental quality (e.g., the denser the population the greater the amount of waste produced and the need to dispose of it safely).

Geography Standard 16: Understand the changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution and importance of resources.
Benchmark # 2: Know strategies for wise management and use of resources (e.g., community programs for recycling and reuse).
Benchmark # 5: Understand the role of technology in resource acquisition and use, and its impact on the environment (e.g., the more resources used in manufacturing results in more waste that needs to be disposed of in a safe manner).

Geography Standard 18: Understand global development and environmental issues.
Benchmark # 2: Understand the possible impact that present conditions and patterns of consumption, production and population growth might have on the future spatial organization of Earth.
Benchmark # 4: Understand why different points of view exist regarding contemporary geographic issues (e.g., some communities find the recycling and incineration of waste too costly or impractical, and use a landfill solution as one of their primary methods of disposal)

Technology Standard 3: Understand the relationship among science, technology, society and the individual.
Benchmark # 3: Know ways in which technology has influenced the course of history (e.g., improvements in sanitation and waste management- garbage dump vs. sanitary landfill).

Health Standard 2: Know environmental and external factors that affect individual and community health.
Benchmark # 3: Know ways local, state, federal and international efforts to contain an environmental crisis and prevent recurrence (e.g., solid waste contamination).

Language Arts Standard 8: Use listening and speaking strategies for different purposes.
Benchmark # 5: Use grade level appropriate vocabulary in speech (e.g., specialized language).


Materials Needed:
  • Pencils and journals
  • Soil
  • Sand
  • Piece of gardening fabric, large enough to fit inside the box.
  • Corrugated box, at least 24 inches deep
  • Leak proof container and cover, large enough to contain the box
  • Collection of inorganic material: aluminum foil, plastic sandwich bags, bottle caps, wood shavings, paper scraps, etc.
  • Collection of organic materials: plant leaves, coffee grounds, tea bags, rotting cranberries, blueberries, onion skins, chips, crusts of bread, pastry crumbs, etc.
  • Two craft sticks
  • Heavy book or weight for compacting layers
  • Modeling clay
  • Kitchen trash bag
  • Scissors
  • Rubber tubing

School or Group:
Green Education Foundation (GEF)
Contact Email:
service@greeneducationfoundation.org
Lesson Documents:
application/pdf Pie Chart.pdf

The Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse is brought to you in partnership with

Center for Green Schools