If Trash Could Talk
What To Do

Before you begin, make sure it's okay with your parent or teacher if you go through a trash can. Be sure someone goes through the trash with you.


Find a trash can to go through. Be sure it comes from some place you know well, like your house or school. (Choose a room other than a bathroom, like your classroom, your kitchen, or even your own room.)


Find a big flat surface (like a table or floor) on which to spread out the newspaper or plastic before you go through your trash. Even if you do this activity outside, be sure to put down several sheets of newspaper or plastic. (This will protect the surface and make it easier to clean up!)

Put down newspaper

Put on a pair of rubber gloves to protect your hands.

rubber gloves
5 Take objects out of the trash one by one and place them on the newspaper.
Take objects out 1 at a time Place objects on newspaper more objects
6 Notice what things are on top or on the surface, what's in the middle, and what's at the bottom of the can. Place the objects that you take out first at the top of your protective surface. Then put the next layer of trash below it, following the order of the trash in the can. The layers of trash can tell you which things are recent and which things have been there longer.
See what was dug up!
7 After you separate the layers of trash from the top to the bottom, make a checklist of the items you found and where they were in the can. Making a checklist
8 Before you dispose of the trash, answer the questions under Think About It.
9 After you answer the questions, throw the trash away and wash your hands thoroughly.
Thingk About It: What Does Your Trash Say? Now, think about the stuff you found as if you didn't know the family who threw out trash:
Trash Checklist
(Click here to get the pdf checklist)
Trade Your Trash
Now trade some trash with a friend. (Don't do this without getting permission from
everyone's parents first!) Answer the same questions as above. What did the trash
belonging to your friend's family tell you about the way they live? How was it like
yours? How was it different?