Trash This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Do you bring lunch to school? What do you bring it in? A paper bag or a lunch box? What do you wrap your sandwich in?

Let's say you bring a sandwich, potato chips, grapes, some cookies, and a carton of milk. The trash left over is a paper bag, two plastic baggies, the potato chip bag, maybe some plastic wrap or tin foil, and the empty milk carton. If you think that looks like a lot, try multiplying that by the number of people in your school. My school has only 400 students but we go through at least twelve large trash bags, and that's only for lunch.

When you go shopping what do you buy? A CD wrapped in cardboard and shrink wrap twice the size of the CD? And when you get hungry, do you go to McDonald's and order a couple of hamburgers wrapped in paper, and a large soda in a paper cup with a plastic cap and straw?

What I am trying to say is you probably throw away more trash than you realize. When you bring your trash to the curb, it doesn't just disappear. It ends up in a landfill, an incinerator, or it may even be dumped in the ocean. That's part of the reason that Revere Beach and Boston Harbor are so polluted.

There are many easy things that you can do to help reduce some of the trash.

1. RECYCLE. Many towns now have recycling programs. They usually take paper, glass, metal, tin cans, used motor oil and yard waste.

2. MAKE A COMPOST PILE. If you have a yard, find a place in the woods or build a compost bin (Save Our Planet by Diane MacEachern tells how). Just dump grass clippings, leaves, weeds, branches and scraps from the kitchen in a pile, wet it, and turn it over every now and then.

3. WRITE LETTERS. If your town doesn't have a recycling program, write a letter to your elected officials. Explain how recycling can save money by keeping recyclable materials out of landfills and incinerators. Companies usually pay for glass and paper.

4. REUSE. Make newspapers into paper logs. There are cheap log rolling machines that you can buy. Save bottles and use them as containers for stamps, pennies, or whatever. Take hangers back to the dry cleaners to reuse.

5. REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF TRASH IN THE FIRST PLACE. Why are CDs wrapped in so much packaging? Write letters asking them to cut down on the amount of packaging they use. (The package usually costs more than the object being sold.) If you shave, use an electric razor instead of disposable ones. Ask your parents to buy in bulk because not as much packaging is used. Also buy things that are packaged in recyclable materials like glass instead of plastic. Use rechargeable batteries which can be used more than a hundred times.

6. CLUBS. Ask your teachers to start a recycling club. If you collect one ton of white paper you can be paid between $25 and $40 for it.

These are just a few things that you, an average teenager, can do. If you are interested, there are many great books to read: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth (reviewed in November 1990 issue) and Save Our Planet. I highly recommend both. n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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orionoir said...
Mar. 26, 2010 at 8:14 pm

I was just rowing on a bay in Miami that was really disgusting... completely covered in trash, ranging from plastic bags to bits of styrofoam to coffee cups. I even saw a headless lizard corpse and a lawn chair. 

It really made me lose faith in humans. If we can't even keep clean an inlet of water, how will we keep clean the entire ocean? How will we save ourselves and the very existence of this planet from global warming?

What you've written here is great in helping people... (more »)

 
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