The students will be able to examine product packaging to determine
whether packaging is excessive and whether it is recyclable. The
students will be able to identify waste reduction techniques.
Empty food containers, calculator, postal or other scale, chalkboard
1. Ask each student to bring to class a food
container from home. Boxes and packages should be empty. Cans,
bottles, jars, etc. must be rinsed clean, and labels left intact.
Be sure to include lids or caps. (It may be necessary for the
instructor to provide examples and extra containers as needed).
2. Have the class separate into groups according
to the container materials the students have provided: aluminum,
glass, steel or tin, paper, plastic, multimaterial, etc.
3. Ask each group to examine its container
labels and determine the weight of the product. Net weight will
identify the weight of the contents only. Gross weight will denote
the sum of the weight of container and its contents. (Most weights
will be stated as net weight).
4. Using a scale, have each student determine
the weight of his empty container. Each group should complete
a chart (on the chalkboard or on a handout) with each student
entering the name of his product, the package weight as determined,
the weight of the contents, and the gross (total) weight. Consistent
units of measure must be used throughout the class (ounces or
5. Have each group calculate the average percent
of packaging for the group's products using the formula:
Total Gross Weight (C)
Display the results for each group on the
6. Discuss with the class the various group
results. Which packaging material offers the least percentage
of packaging weight and which the most? What advantages do each
of the packages offer? Does some packaging seem excessive? Are
some products packaged in a variety of materials?
7. What implications can be made regarding
the cost of packaging, costs for transporting the products, and
waste disposal requirements for packaging?
8. Ask each member of the class to examine
his container label for the presence of a recycling symbol. Students
locating a recycling symbol on the packaging should be asked to
define the term "recyclable". (Recyclable materials
are those materials which can be collected and processed for use
as a raw material in the manufacture of the same or a similar
product.) Which packages can be made from recycled materials?
Which packages are identified as recyclable?
Are any of the packages that do not display
a recycling symbol recyclable? (Packages made from aluminum, cardboard,
glass, steel/tin, paper, and certain plastic packages, including
twoliter bottles and milk jugs are recyclable).
Does any one group have more recyclable packages
than the others?
9. Ask the class to identify methods of reducing
waste from product packaging. (Buying products with less packaging,
buying products in bulk quantities, buying products in refillable
containers, packaging made from recyclable materials, etc.).