History of Waste

Let’s learn about the History Of Waste

  • WASTE is defined as unwanted or unusable material.
  • On average Canadians produce 2.1kg of waste every day. That is equal to the weight of four basketballs. It all adds up to 766.5kg of waste per person each year!
  • We did not always produce this much waste. As hunters and gatherers 200, 000 years ago, we produced no waste. Everything was re-used, made of natural materials, and returned to the earth.
  • Present day waste production has almost doubled to 2.1 kg per person. Many products are designed to be used only once, such as disposable food packaging. Many items are also designed to quickly become outdated, like electronics and entertainment devices. We create more garbage now than ever before!



Chose one of the engaging activities below to take action:

  • Visit a Historic Site: Is there an old abandoned homestead or worksite along any trails in your area? If you know of one, go for a walk and see what kinds of garbage are left behind? How does the waste people leave behind give clues about how people lived? What kinds of garbage might have originally been there that has since disappeared? Check out your local museum website or parks and trails guide for ideas of where you might find old historic sites. Make sure that the site is open to the public before going.
  • Ditching Disposables Challenge: try to reduce the amount of disposable single-use products that you use for one day. This means no disposable food packaging, water bottles, straws or other things that are only used once and thrown away. At the end of the day, what items were the most difficult to go without? Is there anything you don’t think you could ever go without? How could you permanently replace one of the disposable products that you use often (for example using an aluminum water bottle instead of a disposable plastic one).
  • Virtual Museum Tour: check out your local museum website and take a virtual tour (if they don’t have that option look through one of their online photo albums). Try to find five items that were re-usable in the past, but now are replaced with disposable items.


Journaling prompts

Choose one of the topics below to write about:

  • What did we use before tissue paper, plastic water bottles, and plastic razors?
  • How has the production of waste changed over time?
  • What do you think people in the future might think about us, when archeologists excavate our garbage dumps? What does the trash we leave behind tell about us?



Check out some of our favorite Garbology videos:


Extras resources

  • WALL-E movie by Disney Pixar
  • What a Waste by Jess French (book ages 6-9)


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