Adult Ed

Basura Bags! Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Overview | Activities

Prep for Teachers | Activities |

Prep for teachers


  • Register for access to EdVideo Online
  • Bookmark sites
  • Break down empty cardboard boxes into large pieces for poster displays and small pieces for flashcards
  • Download current versions of Windows Media Player or Quicktime Media Player


Introductory Activities: (Key Message) Identifying what things are made from is the beginning step in explaining how our choices and actions can contribute to improving or harming the environment.

A. Exploring the problem: What is the state of our environment?
1) Use the FROM MATERIALS TO GOODS teacher handout to begin the lesson. Write down the items on the "Materials" list or probe the class to find out if they know what products are made from those materials.
The materials list is:

Petroleum Aluminum Wood
Coal Sand Cotton
Iron Cadmium and Mercury  

The products generated from these resources are:

Plastics (milk jugs, shampoo bottles, egg cartons) Cans & foil Lumber and paper products
Nylon Glass Textiles and paper
Steel Batteries  

2) Ask the class to think about what will happen if we, as a society, produce and throw away more and more products without recycling or reusing them?
(Answer: Explain that there would be more pollution, among other consequences. Recycling keeps old products from being buried in landfills or incinerated. Aluminum recycling creates far smaller amounts of greenhouse gases than making the metal from new raw materials. Recycling batteries helps to keep harmful metals like cadmium from contaminating the environment.)

Finally ask students to identify why it is important to find ways to reduce, reuse and recycle these goods (products) in a city like New York.
(Answer: R-3 programs are important in large cities like New York because there is very little space to store trash (i.e., landfills); it is expensive to ship and store trash at other locations; and the environmental risks associated with burning trash are too big to take in densely populated areas. Recycling programs may be a viable option, especially in cities where a majority of the people and businesses commit to principles of reduction of waste.)

B. Exploring possible solutions: How do we address the challenges?

1) Distribute the FROM CENTRAL AMERICA TO CENTRAL PARK, WE CAN ALL DO OUR PART! handout to answer the question "What is polar fleece?" Direct students to log onto the Wikipedia encyclopedia entry for "polar fleece" at The short description introduces students to the most basic information about polar fleece. From this entry, students will learn that polar fleece is a recycled textile made from plastic.

Students will quickly discover that the entry does not contain enough information to answer all of the questions on the handout. Direct students to log onto the Bookrags search engine entry for polar fleece at to complete the assignment.

(Answers: Question 1: Answers will vary but they should describe that it is soft, warm, fuzzy, light, smooth; they might also explain that it is inexpensive, easy to find in stores and used for lots of different things. Question 2a: This textile was first manufactured in 1979 but it was not until 1993 that it was first made from recycled plastic. Question 2b: Fleece is made by twisting synthetic (polyester) fibers into yarn then combing the fibers to produce a nap that is fluffy (voluminous) and soft. Question 3: Many products are made from this textile including blankets, jackets, hats, scarves, insulating materials, and furniture.)

2) Log onto the Basura Bags Web site at to see how a community in Honduras is recycling their trash. Click on the "About the project" link ( and discuss what the problem is as a class. (Answer: According to the text on the Web site, it is a cultural tradition for the average citizen to consume two small bags of chips per day; because there is no system for trash removal there, people burn their garbage or as shown in the picture, leave it for someone else to worry about.)

Click on the "Bag Construction" link ( and show students how youth in this community are doing their part to help reduce waste and raise funds for education.

Learning Activities:

(Key Message) Implementing a good recycling program means knowing what to do and how best to do it.

1) Watch the "I Want to Know: Reusables, Reuse and Recycle" video segment either as a live streaming video through EdVideo Online ( or as a download. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by referring them to the Focus for Media Interaction Questions provided on their handout.

(Answers: Answers will vary to question 1, but expect students to state that the reason why he thinks that the trash is treasure is because it can be restored or repaired, reconditioned and reused. The list of items that can be recycled included the following items: Steel (metals), glass, paper, polyethylene (plastic), copper, lead, batteries, old tires (rubber) and textiles. Explain to students that textiles represent any kinds of fabric that can be used for clothing or other house wares like curtains or furniture covering.)

2) Access the "WITHOUT YOU, IT'S ALL JUST TRASH" New York City pollution prevention videos at
. PLAY the first 45 seconds of the video and PAUSE the clip. Ask students to identify the problem. (Answer: The problem is related to the fact that in spite of recycling containers being close by, a consumer only disposes of his waste in the old-fashioned trash can.)

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to identify the answer to three questions:

  1. Why are the trash cans used in the video clip color coded? What does each color represent?
  2. What can be inferred from the motto "R-3" laws if applied to the environment?
  3. 3. How much trash is produced by New Yorkers per day?
RESUME video play. PAUSE video clip at time = 2:20 (You will see an image of a large high-rise building. (Answers: Q1: The trash cans are color coded as a visual system for sorting trash. Black or metal trash cans are usually for non-recyclable waste. Blue bins are for glass and metals. Green (or white) bins are usually for paper goods. Most of the time, bins and cans are also labeled with the actual words to describe what should be deposited into them for more effective recycling. Q2: The "R-3" motto could describe the motto: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Q3: According to the narration "New Yorkers produce 26, 000 tons of trash per day, enough to fill the Empire State Building in a week" (t= 1:48-1:55)).

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to listen for steps they could take to create a school action plan for starting a recycling program in their own schools. RESUME video play. STOP the clip at time = 4:25. You will see an image of student, staff and faculty in lunchrooms, cafeterias and kitchens sorting their food waste. Ask students to identify ways that schools and students can do their part to reduce, reuse and recycle. (Answer: There are several steps that can be taken to create an effective school recycling program but it starts with a) posting of recycling rules/procedures, b) class discussions and instruction, c) formation of a recycling committee that includes teachers, administrators, staff, and students, d) assign school leaders and activists the responsibility of monitoring student recycling practices, e) school-wide placement of bins for sorting recyclable waste.)

Continue class discussion about how recycling laws have changed since the video was produced. Access current information on the NYC Waste Le$$ Web site at Point out to students that only clear bags should be used for recycling and that if NYC residents need labels, decals or bins, the can call 311 to reach a city agent (For more information about "Dial 311" and the services it provides, including translation in over 170 languages and links to neighborhood data log onto A Department of Sanitation literature request form is also available online at

Culminating Activities:
(Key Message) Schools serving their community are always better schools.

1) Review the school recycling guides and checklist documents for New York, available online at and Discuss with students whether or not these flyers are effective tools for teaching children about recycling. Emphasize to students that the pictures are clear and universally understood symbols for common household goods. Point out to students that the flyers' good use of language also helps to make them effective. The language is free of errors and is appropriate for the multilingual society found in New York.

2) Create your own public service announcements to support a recycling program in your school. In small groups of three or four students, create posters that can be posted around the school or in the community to teach people about the recycling guidelines for the city. Reuse old magazines by finding pictures or text to enhance your posters. Cover recycled cardboard with used office paper (clean side) and glue the pictures/text to the new public service announcements.

If students would rather create computer printouts of their flyers, they can access clipart from the California Integrated Waste Management Board Image Gallery at Once students have designed art and graphics for these announcements, have them put short messages or slogans under the pictures. If there are students in the class who are fluent in languages other than English, encourage them to create messages in another language. If there are several multilingual students in the class, create the cooperative learning groups with at least one Spanish speaker, one French speaker, one Mandarin or Cantonese speaker and one Russian speaker per group. In this way, each group member can make a contribution to the whole school community and neighborhood in a way that may not have been done before.

Post the flyers and posters in community centers around the city and/or enter the the Golden Apple Award contest. See last year's Golden Apple Award brochure ( for more information and check the Web site for current contest information. "The Golden Apple Awards offers schools in NYC substantial cash prizes for documenting their model school recycling programs, waste prevention initiatives, or beautification projects" (
) so get involved. Start now planning for your classes' or school's 2007 entry.


Art/Home Economics and Math
Collect old t-shirts or sweatshirts from members of the class and use them to create a quilt to commemorate the school year. If the class would rather donate the quilt to an agency or auction, begin a year-long project that will culminate in a finished product. Log onto the Multicultural Quilt page at to see examples of quilting styles used in the United States as influenced by other cultures. Quilting itself is an art born from math skills. Log onto the Annenberg/CPB Math Resource page at to learn more about symmetry and quilting and try to reproduce the block patterns for the various quilts shown. Each member of the class will be able to craft a square made from t-shirt triangles. Sew each square together to create larger blocks and before you know it, the project will have taken on a whole new, recycled form.

Watch video available on the NYC Waste Le$$ Business Project Web site (
). Identify at least five businesses or industries that have adopted recycling or reduction programs to reduce costs to merchants and/or consumers. In only seven minutes of video, students will see examples from consumer-driven industries like prepared foods and groceries to manufacturing.

Set up a community-based R-3 sale to benefit a specific non-profit organization. The R-3 principles (reduce, reuse, and recycle) can be employed with great success. Selling old clothes is a great way to reuse and recycle them. Creating crafts made from restored household objects will reduce the amount of trash sent to the junk pile. The funds generated can be filtered back into the community used to support the sale or donated to a good cause-there are plenty to go around!