Trash Talk

We all know littering is wrong. In fact, it is against the law in most places to litter. But do you know why it is wrong to litter?

When we litter, we pollute the air, the water, and the land. This means we make it dirty and contaminated. You might even say we give the earth a disease or make it sick.

Sometimes, though, we pollute the earth without really meaning to. This happens when we put things in the trash that don’t rot. When things rot they become part of the dirt. Those things that don’t rot stay in the ground. They stay and stay and stay—sometimes for more than a hundred years or more!

The things that pollute the earth by making it dirty can also hurt plants, animals and people. There are several ways this can happen. The things that pollute the earth can:

  • Kill plants by putting poison in the soil
  • Kill plants by taking up room roots need so the plant can grow and be healthy
  • Kill animals when the animal tries to eat something it cannot digest
  • Kill animals when the animal tries to eat something that is poisonous
  • Hurt and kill animals when the trash destroys their home
  • Put poison in the water that hurts people when they drink it
  • Make the ground unsafe for people to use for working and playing

You know it is unsafe to put things like oil and paint in the ground. But there are some things you throw away that pollute the earth without you even knowing it.

Let’s do an experiment to show you what we are talking about

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  • Small glass fish aquarium OR
  • Two clear glass quart jars
  • Soil (bagged potting soil will work)
  • Three or four handfuls of gravel (no bigger than 1-inch gravel)
  • Water
  • A sunny location
  • Styrofoam cup (small)
  • Banana peel
  • The lid from a soup or vegetable can
  • Pencil and paper or calendar


  • Fill your glass container(s) half full of soil mixed with rocks (one handful per jar or all of them if using an aquarium).
  • Place the cup, banana peel and lid on top of the dirt (one item in each jar if using jars).
  • NOTE: Be sure to place the items near the edge of the jar or aquarium so they can be seen when looking in from the side of your container(s).
  • Add enough dirt to each jar or the aquarium to cover the top of your ‘trash’ with at least two inches of dirt. Do not pack the dirt down. Just let it fall around the ‘trash’ naturally.
  • Sprinkle some water on top of the dirt and set the container(s) in a sunny location.
  • Mark the calendar or write down the date you do this on the piece of paper.
  • Every third day water the dirt just enough to make it moist.
  • One the days you add water, make a note of any changes in your trash.
  • How many days did it take for the banana peel to rot? The cup? The lid?


The purpose of this experiment is to show you that things made from natural materials rot and go back to the earth. Things that are man-made do not.

You can see this is true because the banana peel rotted within just a few days. The cup and lid did not rot or change very much at all. The cup might break into pieces because of the water and the weight of the dirt. The lid might have rust because of the water, but they will never rot.


  • You can add to the experiment by using different items. Some items you can use are: paper, glass, fabric and a piece of a plastic bottle. Do these items rot? If so, how long does it take?
  • Instead of putting the container(s) in the sun, put them in a dark, damp place. See how long it takes for items to rot in the dark compared to the bright sun.


  • Pollution hurts the earth
  • Pollution can kill plants and animals
  • Most man-made items do not rot
  • Things made in nature rot
  • Sunlight and heat causes things to rot quicker than they do in the dark