In North Dakota, our landfills already contain an average of 5.2 tons of trash per person, according to the EPA.
We add another 1,500 pounds of waste per person each year.
“How many of you have heard of the Three “R”s before?” asks Hilliary Johnson, Lake Metigoshe State Park Seasonal Interpreter.
“Recycle, reduce, and reuse,” answers a child.
The idea of the Three “R”s of Waste Management has been around for decades, but how often do we actually follow those guidelines?
“It’s great to, you know, start that thinking process of, “What can I do to recycle, reduce, reuse,” anything like that,” says Johnson.
According to a study by the Recycling Partnership, single-family homes generate between 800 and 1,000 pounds of recyclable packaging each year, but only an average of 35-to-45% is actually recovered.
“Where do we think batteries go?” Johnson asks the group.
“Recycling!” answers one child.
The EPA says there’s an even better option than recycling: reducing and reusing.
“Straws, to save the turtles,” says a child.
“You could! And they even actually make metal straws that you can buy now, too,” says Johnson.
Choosing reusable items like metal straws and cloth bags for groceries helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduces the amount of waste added to landfills.
“Any small step we can do towards our planet is going to be helpful,” says Johnson.
As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
“Someone cleaned up some ocean trash and made it into a statement saying, “Look, all of this trash was in our ocean, hurting our animals.” And you see, here, that they made it into an animal that’s getting hurt by some of our trash,” says Johnson.
Its an example these kids are following: turning trash into art.
“I made this little wood stick and then I put a little of those rainbow strings around it to make it look like a bracelet,” says Ben Herda, Young Learner.
Art with a cause.
On a positive note, North Dakota is one of only three states with less than ten-tons of landfill-waste generated per person.