Junior Ranger: Trash Detective

The next time you are out exploring at a park, near your home, or even at a local market or school, and you see a piece of trash on the ground, instead of ignoring it... think about it!

Trash used to be something before it was thrown away. It can also tell us a lot about the person who left it there. We can explore the world around us as Trash Detectives!

NOTE: For this activity we will be LOOKING at trash ONLY, NOT PICKING IT UP. Unless you have gloves or a special trash grabber, you should never pick up trash you see lying around. If you see a park ranger, you can ask if they have any gloves you can use. Always check with an adult before picking up anything you see lying on the ground that is not yours.

SECOND NOTE: This is not a Trash Detective. This is a bear eating some trash. Always close and lock your trash away safely when visiting a national park or a bear might visit you.
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As bears roam in search of food, they will often get into the trash if it's not properly stored. Don't tempt the bears! Properly store trash and food. Help keep bears wild!

For this activity you will need:
  • A place to find trash - a campground, park, front yard, parking lot, anywhere safe that you can walk around
  • A way to remember what trash you have seen - this can be a video, an audio recording, a written list, or even just your memory
  • Your powers of deduction - you figuring out the what/who/when/why from what you have found
  1. Start by walking around the place you have chosen. What can you find?
  2. What is that strange blue thing over there? is it a wrapper? a small round plastic cap from a water bottle? Try to describe the things you find as best you can.
  3. Create a story from the things you have found. Was someone having a picnic? Did someone's backpack dump on the ground? Who might have dropped those things?
  4. Lastly, think about how long it will take for those pieces of trash to degrade or dissolve in the weather. It would probably take a very, very long time. Whoever left those may not have realized they had dropped them, but every person who comes after sees them. This is why it is super important to pick up whatever you drop and find a trash can to put it in.
  5. What other stories can trash tell us? How much trash does the average person make every day? What happens to trash after we put it in a trash can?
Challenge yourself to not leave anything for other trash detectives!

Part of a series of articles titled Junior Ranger - Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.

Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area

Last updated: April 20, 2022