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November 16th, 2021

Lesson Activity: Where is Away?


The following activity provides teachers and students the opportunity to engage in the geographic and civics aspects in waste management. 


Instructional goals include:

  • Spatial relationships: define “away” and “here"

  • Distinguish the differences between: solid waste, hazardous/toxic waste, and sewage

  • Legal/illegal waste disposal

  • Municipality and individual responsibility of waste disposal

  • How cost, public safety, and federalism (federal and state powers) impacts waste disposal

When residents throw anything “away,” it immediately becomes the responsibility of one of America’s thousands of local governments. It is an awesome responsibility as there is an increasing number of American’s who discard an exponentially growing amount of waste each day and year. The concept of “away” is worthy of study by K-12 grade school students. (And all of us.) 

Begin today's activity with the Bell-Ringer below:


After asking the class "Where is 'away?', list as many answers as possible on the whiteboard. 'Away' must be away from someplace. 
Both “away” and “here” involve a sense of place:





Review what trash the class listed earlier. What is similar/different among the pieces of trash?


One person can create up to 1,642 pounds of trash each year (avg 5 pounds a day). For a family of four, that's about 6, 570 pounds per year. Trash falls into different categories depending on the material, and it's danger to the environment/length of time it will take to decompose. Let's determine what categories, or "trash-gories" the trash we listed earlier falls under:

"Away" means in or to a different place.

Solid Waste

Typical waste such as food, paper, yard waste, food containers, and paper waste.

Hazardous/Toxic Waste

A waste that is either toxic, ignitable, reactive or corrosive.


Is made up of the wastewater from residences or institutions, carrying bodily wastes, washing water, food preparation wastes, laundry wastes, and other waste products of normal living.

Which category does most of the trash you listed fall under?

An extension to this activity would be to hand out a copy of the handout "Trash-gories": Types of Municipal Waste and ask students to record their trash disposal at school for the next two days. Working with their shoulder partner they will compare and create a bar graph of the recorded trash. 

"Where is away?" The Article



On a piece of paper, have your students write down what items they threw away today. Share answers with the class and write some common ones on the whiteboard.

Next, ask the class:

"When you throw something 'away', where is 'away'?"


Begin the class with this discussion - then move on to todays activity,


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