User login

Trash Talkin'

Source Institutions

    Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado at Boulder

Add to listGo to activity
Trash Talkin'

In this activity, learners collect, categorize, weigh and analyze classroom trash and discuss ways that engineers have helped to reduce solid waste. Learners make predictions on the types of trash that they will collect in a week and sort the trash they collect into categories (food, paper, plastic, etc.) and subcategories (re-useable, recyclable, and non-recyclable). Learners calculate the total mass of a group of items, explain how accumulating solid waste affects the environment, and investigate the attitudes about solid waste in developed and undeveloped countries.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 11

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Classroom trash (1 week's worth)
  • Multiple trash cans/bin for sorting different types of trash (recyclable and non-recyclable paper, plastic, metals, glass, food waste, miscellaneous items)
  • 3 plastic garbage bags (e.g. grocery sacks)
  • Bathroom scale
  • Rubber/latex gloves
  • Let's Talk Trash Worksheet


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Processes
      • Weather and Climate
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Environmental Engineering
    • Technology
      • Manufacturing
  • Life Sciences
    • Ecology
      • Human Impact
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
    • Measurement
  • Physical Sciences
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Mass and Weight
  • The Nature of Science
    • Science and Society
      • Risks and Benefits
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Impacts of Technology
      • Technology and the Environment
    • The Design Process
      • Invention and Innovation

Informal Categories

  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Uses STEM to solve real-world problems
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards

Includes assesments for student learning

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Kolenbrander, Amy; Todd, Jessica; Schaefer Zarske, Malinda; Yowell, Janet

Source Collection:

  • TeachEngineering


  • All Rights Reserved, Regents of the University of Colorado, ©2005

Funding Sources:

  • Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE)
  • U.S. Department of Education
  • National Science Foundation, National Science Foundation


User Lists

This resource is part of these lists: