The best way to learn is through experience. Try these fun projects and learn more about how waste is handled – by nature, through recycling, and in man-made systems like landfills.
Learn how people make recycled paper by making your very own. Try out different recipes to make cool crafts.
How to Make Recycled Paper
Question: What is paper made out of? How do you recycle it?
Answer: Paper is made from cellulose (Sell-u-los), which is in plant fibers. The cellulose is made by cutting down trees and then grinding up trees and dumping the woodpulp in acid. Not a pretty picture because cutting down trees is not good for the planet.
But recycling uses cellulose over and over again. Recycled paper can be made with less electricity, with less water, with a lot less pollution, and it saves trees from being cut down.
Making recycled paper yourself is also lots of fun. Why don’t you try it!
First, some information: Making recycled paper is messy. It is also a lot of fun. Someone will have to use a food processor and an electric iron. Both can be dangerous. So make sure that you get help on today’s project because it is a big one. It is best to do this with some friends and family. That way you can spread the mess and the fun around.
What You Need:
- 2 full newspaper pages torn into 2-inch squares
- food processor
- 2 tablespoons white glue
- 2 or 3 cups water
- sink with 4 inches water
- old panty hose
- coat hangers
- electric iron.OPTIONAL: insect screen – strainer – food coloring – dryer lint
You’re going to first make the frames that you’ll use to make paper with. You’ll use the stuff you gathered in the What You Need section.
Undo the coat hanger and use the wire to make a flat square about 6 by 6 inches big. Stretch one leg of the panty hose over it. Take your time; it could snag. If you put tape on the ends of the wire, it will snag less. Make sure it is tight and flat.
Tie knots in the hose. Use the other leg for another piece of paper. You will need one frame for every piece of paper you make. You might want to make more than one or two.
Put a handful of the paper and some water into the food processor. Close the food processor and turn it on high. Keep adding paper and water until you have a big gray blob. You may have to add a little more water to keep things moving smoothly. Keep the food processor on until all the paper has disappeared. Then leave it on for 2 whole minutes.
Put the glue in the sink water and add all of the paper pulp you just made. Mix it really well. Use your hands.
Mix up the sink water again and then scoop the frame to the botoom of the sink. Lift it very slowly. Count to 20 slowly while you are lifting. Let the water drain out for about a minute. Mix up the sink every time you make a new piece.
Try other things like the screen or a strainer. Try adding lots of food coloring, or lint, or leaves to the food processor.
Now you have to hang the frames on a clothesline or put them out in the sun. Wait until they are completely dry with no dampness at all. You can then gently peel off the paper.
Have a grown-up use the iron – set on the hottest setting – to steam out your paper. You can keep making paper until the pulp is all strained out of the sink.
See how strong your paper is. Trim it with scissors. Write on it. It is strong.
Who Knew? Many of the plant parts that we usually throw away can be grown into attractive houseplants.
Nature is the best recycler. Some plants even recycle themselves. New plants can grow from plant seeds, and in some cases, from parts of plants. Did you know that some of the things we throw away in the trash can be grown into attractive houseplants? All you need is a sunny window, some water or potting soil, flower pots or containers, and a little tender loving care.
Tip: Try and use containers that would otherwise be thrown out. That way you will be:
- Reducing the amount of waste thrown out
- Recycling the waste plant parts, and
- Reusing items that would otherwise be waste
- Potting soil
- Containers for plants, seeds, pits, fruit, or vegetable parts (see procedure section below to find out what plant pieces or parts can be used)
- Knife (have an adult do any required cutting)
- May need: toothpicks, pebbles, plastic wrap, Ziploc bag, peat moss, paper towel
Plants from Plant Parts:
White Potato in Soil
Take a white potato that is showing “eyes” and cut a section that includes an eye (about 1 square inch). Place it in a pot of moist soil, about 2″ deep. Keep the plant moist but do not “drown” it. Field potatoes are planted this way.
Sweet Potato in Water
In the middle of a sweet potato, stick 3 to 4 toothpicks evenly spaced. Place the potato in a glass of water and put it in a sunny window. Either end can be rooted. Keep the water level high, and after a week or more the potato will usually sprout roots and vine-like and leaves. Carrot Top in Water:
Cut about 1″ – 1 1/2″ off the top of 4 to 6 carrots. Fill a shallow bowl 2/3 full of washed pebbles (pebbles help support the tops). Place the carrot tops over the pebbles. Add water to the level of the pebbles and maintain this level at all times. Soon the tops will sprout pretty foliage.
Pineapple in Water:
To separate the top from the fruit, hold the fruit firmly with one hand and twist the leafy head with the other. The top should come right off. Remove the lower leaves until the stump is about 1 1/2″ long. Put the top in a glass of water and change the water weekly. When roots are 3″ to 4″ long, transplant to a pot.
Plants from Seeds:
Remove the pit from an avocado and allow it to dry for 2-3 days. Peel away as much of the onion-like skin as possible. One-third of the way down, inset four toothpicks at regular intervals. The flat end is the bottom and the pointed end is the top. Put the pit in a glass of water so that 1/2″ of water covers the base of the pit. When the roots are 4″ long, transplant the pit to a pot and keep it in a bright, warm window. Keep the soil evenly moist at all times.
Citrus plants can be grown from seeds removed from oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and tangerines. Soak the seeds overnight in water. Plant 1/2″ in moist potting soil. Cover the pot with a plastic bag or a piece of plastic wrap, and put in a warm spot. When the seeds start to grow (in a few weeks), remove the plastic. Keep the plant in a warm, sunny window.
Beans, Peas, and Lentils:
Soak dried beans, peas or lentils overnight in warm water. Fill a pot 2/3 full with potting soil. Place three seeds on the top of the soil and cover with 1/2″ of soil. Cover the pot with plastic wrap. After the seeds start to grow, remove the plastic. Put this plant in a warm, sunny window, and keep the soil evenly moist. It may be necessary to tie the plants to a small stake as they grow.
Use anise, caraway, coriander, celery, dill, or fennel seed. Fill a 6″ pot 2/3 full with moist potting soil. Place six seeds on top of the soil and cover with 1/2″ of soil. Cover the pot with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot. After the seeds begin to grow (3-8 days), remove the plastic and place the plant in a sunny window. After a few weeks, you will have a lovely feathery foliage that can be snipped and used in cooking.
Make sure you use fresh, unroasted peanuts. Fill a large, 4″ deep plastic bowl 2/3 full with moist potting soil. Shell four peanuts and place them on top of the soil, covering them with 1″ of soil. The plant will sprout quickly. In a couple of months small, yellow, pealike flowers will develop along the lower part of the stem. After the flower fades, the ovary swells and starts to grow toward the ground and pushes into the soil. Peanuts will be ready to harvest in about six months.
Plants from Exotic Fruits:
In the center of the mango, there is a large hairy husk with a pit in it. Scrape off all the excess flesh from the husk and gently pry open with a dull knife. The pit is best started in a sphagnum bag. Fill a Ziploc bag with dampened peat moss or sphagnum. Place the pit in the bag and make sure it is completely surrounded by moss. Check every day to make sure the pit is not dried out or rotted from too much moisture. When the roots are 4″ long, transplant to a pot that is at least 1″ larger than the pit.
Papayas are not easy to grow because the plants have a tendency to dampen off (die) at about 6″ tall. When you cut the papaya open, you will find hundreds of black seeds surrounded by a gelatinous aril (seed covering). To remove the aril, spread some seeds on a paper towel and roll them with your fingers until the aril squashes off. Plant the seeds immediately in a container with sterile potting soil. Give them bottom heat and high humidity until they pass the critical stage of 6″ high. Papayas are rapid growers, and once they are established, they will not need a lot of water and fertilizer.
Tamarind pods look like brown lima beans. The outer shell is brittle and easily peels back, revealing a sticky, brown, pulp. Within this pulp there are five or six shiny black pits. Nick the pits (with a nail file) and soak them until they swell, usually in a few hours. Plant the pits in a container with potting soil and place in a sunny window. Tamarinds are water-loving plants and should never be allowed to dry out. As they grow, pinch them back to make the plant fuller.
Where does our trash go? This experiment teaches you about what happens to our trash after it leaves the curb.
Where does garbage go? What happens to the things we throw away?
Most of the household waste produced in North America ends up in landfills. Landfills are wide, deep pits dug in the earth. The garbage trucks that pick up your trash may deliver it to a landfill. At the landfill the trash is taken from the trucks and spread out. A layer of soil is then spread on top of the trash. This trash-soil sandwich continues to grow taller and taller until the landfill is filled up. Over time, some of the material in the landfill will biodegrade, or break down into useful parts that can be used by soil animals and plants. The time it takes for biodegradation to occur varies from a few days to many many years. Some items should not go into landfills because they are toxic or contain toxic parts. Many things that go into landfills could be reused or recycled. In the landfill they are wasted.
- Four large clear glass jars
- Food scraps such as apple core, banana peal, or potato peel
- Waste paper, newsprint or cardboard
- Either: aluminum can, steel can or small glass jar
- Waste plastic item such as an old toothbrush, plastic holder from a 6-pack of cans, plastic wrap
- Masking tape
- Marker or crayon
- Collect the above items
- Put a piece of masking tape on each jar and label the jars:
- renewable, recyclable
- nonrenewable, recyclable
- nonrenewable, hard to recycle
- Fill each jar about half full with soil.
- Put a small sample of each of your collected items into the appropriate jar.
- Add enough soil to each jar to cover the trash inside.
- Add water to each jar to make the soil damp.
- Leave the jars uncovered and place them on a shelf away from people and out of direct sunlight. Stir each jar every day or two.
- Record keeping: Predict what you think will happen to the trash in each jar.
- Record your predictions:
- Observe the record any changes that occur over a 3 week period.
- What happened to items made of organic and renewable resources?
- What happened to items made of nonrenewable resources?
- In what ways do you think a real landfill would be similar or different from your mini-landfills?
- What things should not go into landfills? Can you think of ways to avoid using such items – possibly by substituting with different products? How could such items be disposed of in a more useful way?
- Into which of the four solid waste categories does each of your collected trash items fit?
- What would normally happen to each of the items you collected?
- Would it be thrown into the garbage and hauled to a landfill, burned on your property, recycled, reused?
- How does the material an item is made of effect how you dispose of it?
- If you want to reduce solid waste and save natural resources, which category or categories should you try and buy products from?