WESTBROOK, Minnesota (STPNS) --     WWG — Last Friday the Prairie Ecology Bus visited the WWG Elementary School in Walnut Grove. The purpose of the visit was to teach fifth and sixth grade students the Three R’s of Recycling.

    Executive director Chrystal Dunker and Naturalist Clay Steele presented a graphic program showing how they can Reduce, Reuse and Recycling of household waste.

    Dunker showed the classes what kind of wastes people over 100 years ago had to deal with. She  asked the students what they thought would be the highest percentage of waste from that period. Less than six percent of waste came from glass or metal. Twelve percent came from food,  but a whopping 82 percent came from ash. Dunker says at that time most homes and businesses were being heated with wood, so that is why there was so much ash.

    She then asked them what the main sources of waste were today. The type of waste we see today is much different than a hundred years ago. Metal and glass are still a small percentage coming in at 5.1  and  2.8 percent respectively. Plastic is next at 11.4 percent, other comes in  at 20.7 percent, organic food is 25.7 percent. Topping the list at 34.3 percent is paper and cardboard.

    Dunker asked the kids which took up more space per pound? Plastic takes up by far more space in landfills than paper.

    Dunker told the kids in Minnesota about 6 pounds of waste is created by each person per day. She said that Minnesota is about in the middle of the country when it comes to landfill use.

    She talked about how a lot of bad things get into our landfills that can eventually contaminate our water supply. However she notes today’s landfills are built with liners to help contain the bad things from escaping into the ground and into the water supplies.

    Dunker then  emptied a trash bin to demonstrate what six pounds of trash looks like. It was a substantial pile on the floor. She also talked about all of the trash that is made from manufacturing before they ever get the products.

    She picked out many pieces of trash from the pile showing how they could be Reduced, Reused, or Recycled. Then she asked them to take the 3R challenge in their own homes.

    In the second part of the demonstration Dunker and Steele worked with the fifth grade class in one session and then the sixth grade class in the next session.

    Dunker and Steele then showed the kids different ways they can cut down on waste by making smarter choices when  purchasing food in large quantities instead of individual servings. It not only produces less trash it also saves money.

    Next the class participated in a obstacle relay race to help students learn the difference between trash and recyclable pieces.

    Steele talked about the differences between how Redwood County and Cottonwood County recycles. In Redwood County recyclables must be sorted into different containers. In Cottonwood County all recyclables can be mixed together in one container. He says single stream recycling is much easier and where it is used there is a higher amount of recycling done.

    Reduce: Reduce waste by avoiding disposable goods such as paper plates, cups, napkins and other throw away items. Buy durable long lasting products that also will save money in the long run. At work people can use the back side of paper or make two sided copies. Use email or other electronic forms of communications. Remove your name from unwanted mailings.

    Reuse: Save paper and plastic bags for other household use. Reuse plastic microwave trays as picnic dishes. Sell old clothes, appliances, and furniture at garage sales or donate items to charities. Use a washable coffee mug instead of paper cups.

    Recycle: Buy and use products made of recyclable materials. Look for the recycling emblem  for products made from recycling, or that can be recycled.

    Check with your local recycling to see what can and cannot be recycled. Generally speaking more items can be recycled with  single stream recycling. With sorted recycling less things can be accepted for recycling.

    All in all the children learned a lot about recycling and had a lot of fun doing it.