As part of their Earth Day observance on April 23, 2009, more than 100 first-graders at Adlai E. Stevenson Elementary School in Fairfield, N.J., listened politely as I talked to them about the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling. But they really got excited about seeing one of our shiny red and green garbage trucks up close!

I took one of Cardella Waste Services’ trucks to my seven-year-old son David’s school as the highlight of my Earth Day presentation about where garbage goes and how long it stays there.
Using slides illustrated with cartoons designed to appeal to my young audience, I explained that a banana peel’s landfill life might be only three to four weeks, an aluminum soda can might last a year, while a plastic jug could still be there a million years from now.

I told them that’s why it’s so important to reduce the amount of garbage we send to landfills by re-using containers, and recycling what we can’t reuse.
To reinforce my points, I gave the kids Earth Day tee shirts, stickers, coloring books and press-on tattoos—but the real hit was the garbage truck. Each first grade class had its picture taken beside the truck, and the driver and I demonstrated how it works. The truck clearly was the best part for the kids. They especially loved the horn!

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