Wasteful, waste-of-time, wasting away, there are many expressions and words related to waste, but what is waste and has it always been as it is today?
Students in Ms. Lema and Ms. Whittick’s Grade 7 classes in Invermere and Windermere, respectively, investigated those questions by a walk down memory lane. By looking at the history of waste humans have created, students learned that the amount of waste we create nowadays hasn’t always been the story.
By acting out various moments in human history, from hunter-gatherers to Romans to modern-day humans, students learned that the amount of waste we create has grown, both in quantity as well as diversity of products. For example, fur-wearing early humans’ waste included just animals remains, ashes, and rock shards – not much of which remains today as it is all biodegradable. On the other hand, nowadays we dispose of electronics, plastics, construction materials, chemicals, all manner of disposable items designed for the dump, in addition to our biodegradable plant and animal wastes.
As civilizations developed and more people moved to cities, the quantity of waste grew and the diversity of products also grew. Humans developed systems to move waste ‘away’, such as sewer systems, but ‘away’ is not ever really away – it’s just in someone else’s backyard. Thus the need to learn about how far we’ve come from our biodegradable waste beginnings and take actions to minimize our current consumption and waste. Hopefully our next actor in the history of waste will hold very few sources-of-waste cards and will have a waste-free story to tell!