# What makes our trash? – A

Last updated: July 22, 2020

Math Skill: Interpreting circle graphs (whole numbers)

Science Subject: Protection of Earth’s resources

Area level: National-scale

Environmental Area: Recycling

Purpose: Understand components of our trash (by materials) in the United States and develop awareness of waste reduction

### BACKGROUND FOR THE TEACHER

In total, 268 million tons of MSW (municipal solid waste) were generated in our country in 2017.When sorted by materials, paper and paperboard represented the largest share, accounting for onefourth of the total.  Food waste follows, making up 15% (Source:U.S. EPA, 2019).

The amount of municipal solid waste (MSW) tripled over the last 50 years in the United States.One of the reasons for the increase is population growth. The population in the country has increased by 75% since 1960. Our social structure that seeks economic growth based on mass production and mass consumption is also responsible for the increase. Per capita waste generation in 2017 is 1.7 times larger than that in 1960.

(Source:U.S. EPA, 2019)

### TEACHER GUIDE

The purpose of this activity is to enhance students’ skills in analyzing circle graphs. Using the actual circle graph provided by the US EPA that shows the components of MSW in the United States, this activity provides 2 worksheets related to data analysis. The circle graphs were obtained from the Advancing Sustainable Material Management: 2017 Fact Sheet prepared by the US EPA in November 2019.

Math Skill: Interpreting circle graphs (whole numbers)

Using the circle graph that shows the breakdown of MSW (municipal solid waste) by materials in the United States as of 2017, students are asked to complete questions related to the graph. Questions include “Which portion is  larger, plastic waste or wood waste?”

### Related problem

Math Skill: Converting percents to decimals and fractions

Using the circle graph that shows about the breakdown of MSW by materials in the United States as of 2017, students are asked to convert percents to decimals and fractions.