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YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel

Teach Students to Recycle

Excerpt from the third book in the Eco Mystery series, The Adventures of the Sizzling Six: The Living Treasure
Do you have some nifty ways that you recycle, reduce, and reuse household waste? If so, we would love to hear from you (just: e-mail
Although communities are recycling more waste, only about10% of our nation's solid waste is recycled, so we all need to do more. What are the benefits of recycling waste materials?
  • Recycling SAVES ENERGY and thus PRESERVES important FUEL resources.
  • AVOIDS POLLUTION created in extracting resources, for example mining and from littering.
  • Recycling SAVES MONEY by avoiding the high costs of landfills or incineration.
  • Communities can use recycling to GENERATE REVENUES from the materials recovered from waste.  

Here is an excerpt from the third book in the Eco Mystery series, The Adventures of the Sizzling Six: The Living Treasure, pertaining to the adverse results of waste that is NOT recycled.

By morning, the storm has moved on, leaving the woods soaked and glistening. I jump out of bed in a hurry to get down to the creek to see what damage the storm has done. Last night, I picked out my clothes for school and took a shower, so I should have time to see the creek. I look in the mirror, wet my hair, grab a brush to smooth down the knot of tangles. By the time I’ve got my hair tamed, it’s too late. I have to rush to catch the bus.


After school that day, Mom is waiting for me in the kitchen with milk and cookies.
“How was school today?” she wants to know.
“Fine,” I reply with a little shrug.
Mom smiles, and lets it go.
When I was in elementary school, I’d run down our street after getting off the school bus, give Mom a big hug, and immediately begin rattling off stories about classmate romances, school bus bullying, classroom discipline, or what I liked in my lunch box.  But somehow I don’t do that anymore.
After I gulp down my milk and cookies I feel more relaxed. “Mrs. Green asked students in our class to make suggestions for the science project this year. So after class I told Mrs. Green about working at the Aquatic Biodiversity Center.”
“That’s great!”
“She said that she might invite Dr. Jordan to speak to our science classes about the work they are doing at the center.”
“Good idea!”
Mrs. Green really has cool ideas. She is definitely not your ordinary teacher. Sometimes I wonder if she thinks about anything except biology. We were all shocked when she admitted to our class that she thought textbooks could be boring. We now understand why she likes doing projects that include field trips. I take the last bite of my cookie and then stack the plate and glass in the dishwasher.
“Do you have any homework?” Mom asks.
“Just some Math review. But I really need to go down to the creek to see if the storm caused any damage,” I tell her.
I trudge across the muddy lawn to inspect the creek—the same one that runs behind the school. When I reach the banks of the stream, what I see makes me gasp. It looks like a dinosaur has barfed in the creek!
Plastic bottles, plastic carrier bags, fishing line, red, blue and orange bottle caps, a black spray nozzle, part of a pink comb, white golf tees, plastic cups, a blue-and-silver Nike shoe, and a yellow beach ball are all piled in a tangled mess. I run back to house to get my camera. I’ve got to take photos for Mrs. Green, our energetic teacher, with strange green streaks in her hair. Both students and teachers are a little afraid of her, yet they respect her ability to encourage her students to take on challenges.


The next day, Mrs. Green posts my photos of the “The Creek that Barfed” on the bulletin board. She explains that what I have photographed is typical of plastic debris that has spread throughout the world's oceans, posing a lethal hazard to wildlife.
In class she says, "This is not an uncommon sight. Did you know that there’s a vast expanse of plastic junk floating in the oceans? That there are garbage islands made up of all kinds of plastic stuff like balls, kayaks, Lego blocks, and trash bags? That these swirling trash islands are clogged with dead fish, marine mammals, and birds that have been snared in it?” She pauses, looks around the class. “Questions anyone?”
“Why does the plastic junk stick together in one big lump?” Rose asks.
“Swirling underwater currents called gyres keep the islands together.”
She writes the word GYRE on the board. One garbage island stretches for 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan! And there are others in the Atlantic Ocean.
“Unfortunately, birds and fish mistake the plastic for food. Fishermen have found cigarette lighters, bucket handles, toothbrushes, syringes, plastic toys, tooth brushes and fishing lures—anything made out of plastic—in the stomachs of dead seabirds and fish. These pieces can perforate the stomach or block the gizzard, or esophagus, of living creatures. Some plastics in the gyre will not break down in the lifetimes of you grandchildren and great grandchildren!”
Crystal McCall raises her hand, “Where does all the garbage come from?”
“A lot comes from junk thrown off ships or oil platforms; the rest comes from litter we throw down on land. This litter is swept up by rainfall pouring into gutters, down storm drains, creeks and rivers, which eventually finds its way into the ocean.”
Tapping his pencil on the desk while looking up at the ceiling, Tommy Minefield sniggers, “Yikes!” Tommy is the boy who once foolishly carved his initials in our magnificent oak tree. For once everyone ignores Tommy’s attempt to grab attention.
Crystal McCall, who won the Ms. Clean Water Contest last year—with our help, off course—blurts out, “If this garbage stays out in the ocean, it won’t hurt us, will it?”
“The trash can also be dangerous to humans as well, because plastic pieces in the sea can attract certain man-made chemicals like DDT and PCB, as a result floating plastic is like a poison pill. All this junk enters the food chain when animals swallow them. What goes into the ocean goes into animals, and then can end up on our dinner plates. I want you to see this You Tube video of the Pacific Garbage Island.” Now Mrs. Green really has our attention.
“So why don’t we just shoot it out into space?” Wanda Merez suggests.
We all laugh.
“That’s not practical. For one thing it would cost millions. Is there something that we can do to reduce the amount of plastic garbage?”