1. What's the problem?

We throw things aways all the time. We throw away plastic, metal, glass and paper. All over the world, people are making mountains of rubbish. This is called waste.

Waste comes from all kinds of places. It comes from homes, shops, schools, offices and factories. Waste can be in a solid form, such as rubbish, a liquid, such as dirty water, or a gas such as carbon dioxide. Much of the rubbish we throw away each week is food packaging, mainly cardboard cartons but also tins and bottles.

Waste harms the environment. If it is not disposed of safely, it can pollute nature and harm people and wildlife. Packaging is often made from valuable materials: cardboard is made from trees, glass from minerals and plastic from oil. Energy is used to make packaging, and the process may cause pollution.

Rubbish is often dumped in big holes in the ground that were once quaries or gravel pits. These are called landfill sites. Landfill sites have a number of problems: they are smelly, they look horrible and the rubbish takes up a lot of space. Pests such as mice, rats and birds come to the sites looking for food they can eat.

Many man-made materials, such as plastic, metal and glass, aren't biodegradable, which means they don't decay or decay very slowly.

2. Has it always been a problem?

As the number of people in the world increases, the problem of waste disposal is growing, too. In the last 20 years or so, the food we buy from supermarkets has come with more and more packaging. This adds to the problem of waste disposal.

3. What's the solution?

We can all help to tackle the problem of waste by following the three 'Rs': Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

Reduce means using less of the things that will end up as rubbish. For example, we can write or draw on both sides of each piece of paper we use so that we reduce the amount of paper we use.

Reuse means using something more than once rather than throwing it away. We can wash and reuse plastic drink bottles.

Recycle means to change a used material so that something new can be made from it. Used paper can be made into new paper.

Another way you can help is to start a compost. This helps reduce the size of our dumps.

Space for landfill sites is running out. We must find other ways to get rid of it.

4. Recycling

All the waste we throw away is steadily building up to clutter and harm our planet. What can be done about it? Recycling is part of the answer to the growing problem of waste.

So, what can I recycle? Paper, cardboard, metal, glass and many kinds of plastic can be recycled. Most local councils collect these materials for recycling. Councils provide a special bin for recyclable products. Other products that can be recycled are: mobile phones, computers and televisions.

Recycling not only cuts down on waste but can also save energy and useful resources. Recycling paper helps to save trees and land. It also saves energy, which is used when trees are felled and wood is made into paper. Paper and cardboard can be reused at home, as well as recycled. Did you know that each person wastes about two trees worth of paper each year? When paper is recycled, more forests are left for the future.

To make a new product, more energy is used. When we use recyled materials, we use less energy.

Recycling takes a little effort, but it really helps to solve the problem of waste disposal. Everyone can help by recycling and reducing waste.