A Deep Dive into Trash at Atwater Ave Elementary

This class we talked about humanity’s number 1 byproduct: trash! The gardeners this rotation were already trash professionals, and were able to tell me what our blue, black, and green bins in LA are for. I wanted to speak with the students not only about the “what” goes in which bin, but also the “why” of it!

We split up our waste into 4 main categories. We identified the overall characteristics of each one: trash is almost always man-made, and often involves plastics or other non-biodegradable material.

Recycling can happen with many materials, but there are a lot of rules and misconceptions with those things. For example, that milk carton and pizza box is recyclable – so long as the carton has been rinsed, and the pizza box is completely oil-free. It’s actually better to throw something in the trash if you don’t know if it can be recycled!
Reusing objects is pretty straight-forward: donate used clothing that’s still in good shape, or pass along school books to a younger cousin. Students were also able to give some creative upcycling project ideas as well. One said to turn an old water bottle into a vase, or cut up a t-shirt and turn it into a shopping tote.

The last category is composting, which most students hadn’t heard of! Composting is, of course, essential to a healthy garden, and we talked about what could and could not be composted.

Finally, students were set loose in the garden to take a look at our compost bins, and to identify what in the garden was not compostable, and why.


Good eye, young gardener – this scarecrow’s styrofoam brain is not made of biodegradable materials! This was an excellent class, and I’m sure the students are ready for an even deeper dive into composting 101 for next class!

Until next time,

Ranger Natalie

Natalie Hodson

Natalie is an industrial designer with a passion for sustainability and building. She inherited her mother’s green thumb, and was fascinated with plants from a young age, spending most of her childhood wandering around the woods in Northeastern Ohio. Now, Natalie loves to spend her time wandering around national parks, trying new foods, and building things. She graduated in 2014 from the Rhode Island School of Design and has lived in LA ever since.