Science project

Reusing Your Trash

Difficulty of Project


Cost (Approximate Cost of completing the project)

Less than $15

Safety Issues


Material Availability


Approximate Time Required to Complete the Project

Approximately 1-2 hours, variable depending on complexity of designs selected.


To become familiar with items your family regularly throws in the trash and to find a new use for one or several of these items.          


  • 1-5 items collected from household trash
  • Materials necessary for repurposing these items (examples may include scissors, crayons, glue, tape, construction paper, string, markers, etc.)
  • Blank white paper
  • Poster board
  • Markers or crayons 
Research Questions
  1. What kinds of things do you throw away at home?
  2. Where do they come from? (clothes, food, art projects)
  3. Where do you put your trash? (all in one bin, several, a recycling bin, donation bin?)
  4. What kinds of things do you recycle at home?
  5. What could you do to reduce your trash?
  6. How could you reuse items you usually throw out? 
Terms, Concepts and Questions to Start Background Research

Fun (and not so fun) facts about trash and recycling in the United States:

From the Clean Air Council:

  1. Only about one-tenth of all solid garbage in the United States gets recycled.
  2. Every year we fill enough garbage trucks to form a line that would stretch from the earth, halfway to the moon.
  3. Each day the United States throws away enough trash to fill 63,000 garbage trucks.
  4. Throwing away one aluminum can wastes as much energy as if that can were 1/2 full of gasoline.
  5. Recycling an aluminum soda can saves 96% of the energy used to make a can from ore, and produces 95% less air pollution and 97% less water pollution.
  6. It takes 90% less energy to recycle an aluminum can than to make a new one. 

Experimental Procedure

  1. Walk around the house and look in each garbage container. Notice what you see inside and make a list.
  2. Put a special mark, such as a star, next to any item that could be recycled through your local government or other program instead of thrown out.
  3. Collect one to five items that would normally be thrown out in your house.
  4. Sit down with a piece of paper and brainstorm several ways you could reuse these items instead of throwing them in the trash (certain containers can be painted and turned into a flower vase, food scraps can be used to start a compost pile, shoe boxes or other cardboard could be used as your poster board for the presentation).
  5. Pick one idea per item.
  6. Assemble all materials needed to reinvent these pieces of trash and begin to create!
  7. The completed items can be brought on site for a science fair presentation. If you are not able to bring the completed items on site (eg. Compost pile) try taking a picture and adding this to your poster board. 


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Recycle City 

National Geographic Recycling Plastic
RecycleWorks County of San Mateo, California

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Warning is hereby given that not all Project Ideas are appropriate for all individuals or in all circumstances. Implementation of any Science Project Idea should be undertaken only in appropriate settings and with appropriate parental or other supervision. Reading and following the safety precautions of all materials used in a project is the sole responsibility of each individual. For further information, consult your state's handbook of Science Safety.

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