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Where does our rubbish go?



What is our rubbish made up of?

All rubbish has to end up somewhere. Here are the different ways of getting rid of it. Recycling This is good for the environment because it reduces the amount of rubbish going into landfill and helps preserve energy and precious resources such as coal, iron ore and oil.

Things to do

1. Hold a class debate about the advantages and disadvantages of the different methods of waste disposal. What effect does each method have on the environment? The information in the box opposite will help. 2. Do a survey to find out how many people in your school use the local paper skips, bottle banks and can banks. If they don't use them, why is this? How could you encourage people to use them?

Burning Burning rubbish produces heat energy which can sometimes be used to heat homes, schools, hospitals, etc. It also saves other fuels such as gas and oil.

Super Stats!

Steel is the easiest material to save from rubbish for recycling because it is magnetic.

Burying Rubbish is commonly buried in holes in the ground called landfill sites. They are on wasteground and when full, can be covered with grass and trees. But chemicals build up beneath the surface, which can seep out and cause damage to plants and wildlife. We are also running out of places to put rubbish.


Around 2 billions steel cans are recycled in the UK every year. That's enough to make a circle around the earth 5 times

Where does our rubbish go?


Waste disposal

Every day in Europe the contents of five million dustbins full of waste are thrown away. That's 3,500 dustbins full of rubbish every minute. The more we buy, use and collect, the more rubbish we generate. Here are the main methods of waste disposal used around the world.



Bring in a dustbin bag with samples of rubbish that you would typically throw away in a week at home. Empty it out onto a newspaper-covered desk and divide the rubbish into paper, organic matter, cans and glass, asking pupils what belongs in each pile. What is there most of? How much of the rubbish can be recycled or re-used? Could some of the products have been made from a material that can be recycled? Using suitable software, pupils could show the results on a pie chart or bar graph. Discuss with pupils what they think our dustbins will contain in 50 years time. They should draw up a list of what there will be more of and what there will be less of. Will it be possible to recycle more waste than we do today? How will our waste be disposed of? Pupils could also predict what they think the pie chart or bar graph they have draw will look like in 50 years time. For example:

Energy from waste

People have been burning their rubbish for hundreds of years. Modern energy-from-waste plants are designed to burn rubbish at about 1,000°C and to minimise emissions. Some local authorities use rubbish as fuel to generate energy to heat our homes. Energy recovery from incineration is more popular in Europe than in the UK.


One of the most common ways of getting rid of rubbish is to use a landfill site ­ a large hole, usually away from people's homes, on waste ground. Landfill sites are divided into 'cells', surrounded by earth or rubble, which are filled in a certain order. However, a poisonous chemical called leachate can build up and leak into the ground. It can seep out of the bottom of a site into nearby streams and rivers, and cause damage to plants and wildlife. Decomposing material also produces methane gas. It has also been shown that some of the waste does not decompose even after ten years.


Glass 9% Metal 8% Plastic 11% Paper 33% Compostibles 37% Textiles 2%


Recycling or re-using waste is good for the environment - it reduces the amount of rubbish that need to be disposed of, helps to conserve natural resources and reduces the amount of energy we use to make new products. However, recycling is not good for the environment if it takes more energy to collect and reprocess materials than it would take to make new materials.

In 50 years time...

Glass 2% Metal 37% Plastic 33% Paper 8% Compostibles 11% Textiles 9%


1. Pupils can produce a large-scale plan of the recycling facilities in their area and display it where it can be seen. They could include information about why it's good to recycle cans. 2. Draw up some guidelines for how your school could reduce the amount of waste it produces. 3. Arrange for school waste to be collected and sorted and transported to local recycling banks.

Useful addresses:

Steel Can Recycling Information Bureau (SCRIB) Trostre work, Llanell, Carmarthenshire, SA14 9SD Telephone: 01554 712632 Email: [email protected], Web: Brit Glass British Glass, 9 Churchil Way. Sheffield S35 2PY Telephone: +44 (0) 114 290 1850, Fax: +44 (0) 114 290 1851 Web:


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