An Incredible Edible Landfill

    Kids, how much do you know about how your local landfill actually works? Let's build one of our own while we learn.

    Please note:  All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision.

    A Keebler© ready-made chocolate pie crust will be our hole in the ground. Before any trash can go in, a landfill hole is lined with pipes to remove liquids from garbage and decomposition. Place Twizzler© licorice whips along the bottom of the crust for this purpose. Most real sanitary landfills surround the hole with an impermeable clay lining to prevent harmful waste from leaving the area; the foil tin containing the pie crust can represent this lining. Mix some "garbage" made of nuts, raisins, M&Ms, etc., into vanilla pudding to make your trash, and cover the bottom of the crust. In sanitary landfills, garbage is covered with dirt each day. Cover your vanilla pudding garbage with a chocolate pudding dirt layer. Make as many alternating pudding layers as you can until the crust is full. Make sure that the top is a chocolate pudding dirt layer.

    The garbage we bury never really goes away completely. Not much decomposition occurs because air and moisture - needed by garbage-chewing microorganisms - are sealed out. Many landfills become parks, ski hills, and golf courses. Color some shredded coconut with green food coloring and sprinkle it over the dirt to look like grass. Your landfill is now complete and ready to eat! Dig in!


    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    [email protected]
    December 1993


    Reference: "Solid Waste Activity Packet for Teachers", Ill. Dept. of Energy and Natural Resources, page 70. (Contact person: Kathy Engelson, Supervisor for School Education, IDENR, 217-524-5454. Also Jean Dehorn or Carol Fialkowski, Chicago Academy of Sciences, 312-549-0606 x2014).