Understanding Organic Waste

Part of the "Worm Your Way Out of This" Collection


Students will learn about waste and compost, and their benefit to the environment.

Estimated Time

45 Minutes

Setting Required



  • S3L2b. Students will identify ways to protect the environment (conservation of resources, recycling of materials).


  1. Ask students to estimate how much trash the average person in the United States generates everyday (in pounds). Answer: 4.6 lbs
  2. Explore the effect of creating so much waste for our landfills and discuss options for diverting waste from landfills (composting organic waste or recycling paper, plastic, and metal).
    Visit http://www.learner.org/interactives/garbage/solidwaste.html
    Read “Where Does the Garbage Go” by Paul Showers
  3. Discuss the benefits of composting including both waste diversion and releasing nutrients to create healthy soil. Watch videos of the process of decomposition.

Rotting fruits and vegetables:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0En-_BVbGc
Pumpkins and apples decomposing in a compost heap: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYssw7gvD_s
Worms decomposing food scraps:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2vGlSNbPYQ

Additional Content for Exploration

Students can work together to develop waste diversion programs for their school cafeteria and measure the difference in waste that goes to the landfill from their cafeteria.