Trash a Pizza!

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On average, each man, woman and child in America generates or makes about 4.5 pounds of trash every day. That comes out to more than 1,500 pounds per person, per year! Some of the solid waste is reused or recycled, but as we learned in the Education Department, most of it is buried in landfills.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has found that the kinds of things Americans throw away can be placed into main classes or categories.

 Data as of 2010
paper 28.5%
yard trimmings 13.4%
food scraps 13.9%
plastics 12.4%
metals 9.0%
rubber, leather, textiles 8.4%
glass 4.6%
wood 6.4%
other waste 3.4%

It may be hard to imagine how much of each type of trash is buried in landfills, but it's easier to visualize if we make a pie chart showing the percentages. We can create a model by making a trash pizza covered with samples of the actual solid waste that is thrown away everyday.

click to see full size imageOur pizza will have "everything on it," just like the ones you order at your local pizzeria. Of course, you wouldn't want to eat THIS pizza, but it will help you become more aware of the amount of trash and garbage we throw away and the composition of our landfills.

You Will Need:

How to:

To make the pizza crust, have an adult use the utility knife to cut two circles, which are 14 to 16 inches in diameter from corrugated cardboard. Use white glue to fasten them together, and place rubber bands all around the form to hold the circles in place. Weight the layers with something heavy to keep them from warping or bending as they dry. Remove the rubber bands.

click for larger imageUsing a single page of newspaper, crumple the sheet the long way. Twist it at one end, and tape it to the top edge of the cardboard circle. Now use short pieces of tape to fasten the paper to the top of the circle, forming a rim. Tape it around the crust to the back of the cardboard. Tightly twist the newspaper as you go, and continue taping every two to four inches until you run out of paper. Begin a new sheet, and continue until you finish the crust or rim.

click to see larger imageWe'll use papier mâché to make our pizza. Mix a small amount of the wallpaper paste according to the manufacturer's directions. Tear the news section of a newspaper into pieces that measure about two inches by four inches. Working on wax paper, attach the rim to the cardboard, gluing the paper front and back along the edge.

Finish covering the top part of the pizza with the black and white news section. Now add a layer using the colored comic section of the paper, and continue alternating between the news and comics until you've added three to four layers. Alternating the news with comics helps you keep track of the number of layers you've added.

Set the crust aside to dry, and if necessary, place something on the form to keep it from warping or bending. Now turn the pizza over, and apply alternating layers of news and comics to the bottom. Again, allow the crust to dry, and apply something heavy to keep the pizza flat.

click to see larger imageTo paint the crust, you'll need two small bottles of liquid, acrylic paint. The colors are white and a golden color such as yellow ochre. The white will act as a primer to keep newsprint from showing through.

Working on wax paper, paint the bottom crust white, and allow it to dry. Now paint the side crust and top white. When they're dry, finish by painting the bottom and edge of the crust gold. If you wish, apply clear acrylic spray to the crust to help protect it.

click to see larger imageclick to see larger imageNow you're ready to add the pizza sauce. Mix five to six ounces of white glue with about two ounces of red acrylic paint in a small container such as margarine tub. If you wish to make a darker sauce, add five or so drops of dark blue. Stir well, and paint the mixture onto the crust. Allow it to dry for twenty-four hours.

Adding the Toppings

The pizza toppings are made from different types of trash, so look around your house and school to see what you can find. Some things you can include are short pencils, rubber bands, hair bows, Lincoln Logs, canceled postage stamps, and bottle caps. Just refer to the size of the slices shown on this pie chart, and try to come up with samples from each group.

To create a more successful model, visualize the sizes of toppings on a real pizza. It may be covered with items such as mushrooms, olives, meat, pineapple, and so forth. It's important to consider scale when you select the trash, so choose items whose sizes are similar to these toppings. For example, although you could use a soda can to represent the metal category, a bottle cap or pull-tab are better choices.

The EPA identifies nine types of trash, so you'll need to divide the pizza into the same number of slices. Again, refer to the pie chart that shows the kinds of solid waste, and decide how large to make the pieces. Find the center of the pizza, and use a pencil and ruler to divide it into sections that correspond with the slices as shown on the chart.

click to see larger imageclick to see larger imageSince we'll not be cutting our pizza into sections, it's necessary to do something to make the pieces stand out. Either paint the lines with white or gold acrylic paint, or apply fabric paint from a squeeze bottle. Just carefully follow along the pencil marks, squeezing out a thin line. The acrylic paint will dry in a matter of minutes. If you use the fabric paints, allow ten to twelve hours for drying time.

After the pizza sauce has dried, you're ready to add the toppings. For the final steps, again ask an adult to help. Have him or her glue on the trash, using a glue gun. After all the toppings are in place, display the pizza on a pan. Now you have a great model to use when you're talking about recycling at your science fair or working on projects for scouts or 4-H!

Tips and Tricks:

click to see full size imageTo make a simpler pizza, draw a large circle on corrugated cardboard and then divide it into slices, just as those cut in a pie. Look at our pie chart to see how big to make the nine sections. Now glue samples of the trash or garbage to the pieces to finish your chart.

click to see larger imageRather than displaying your pizza on a pan, place it in a plain box. This type of container can be purchased at a party store that sells cakes and cookies. Decorate the top of the carton with construction paper and letters cut from magazine and newspaper ads and articles.

For a more detailed description of landfills and a great link about the subject, visit the The Imagination Factory's Education Department.

Visit Planet Protectors Club for Kids sponsored by the EPA, and learn about special activities and games for kids in grades K-6.

America Recycles Day is November 15th. On this day, people are encouraged to recycle and to buy products that are made of recycled content. Visit ARD to learn about special activities in your area, and to find out how you can help on this national day of recycling.

Some organizations help the environment and economy by encouraging people to reuse materials that usually go to the landfill. Visit Redo to see how the group manages surplus and discarded materials.

Thrift shops that deal in secondhand merchandise also help save landfill space by finding new owners for their items. Operated by organizations such as Goodwill Industries International , people who work there collect used clothing and household goods and sell them in their retail stores.

© 2002 Marilyn J. Brackney (updated 2018)

Volume 15 No. 4

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