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Glossary

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GLOSSARY
ALUMINUM A lightweight, nonrustable metal, commonly used to make soda cans, airplane bodies, and frames for lawn chairs.
ASHFILL A specially constructed landfill to be used only for disposing of ash from waste-to-energy plants.
ASPHALT A dark, tar-like material made from petroleum and gravel that is used to pave roadways.
BACTERIA Single-celled living organisms that can cause disease; they can break down solid waste.
BAUXITE A mineral. Most of the aluminum in the world can be found in bauxite.
BIODEGRADABLE Able to be broken down by microorganisms into simpler forms.
BRAINSTORMING Attempting to solve a problem by having members of a group spontaneously propose ideas and solutions.
BTU British Thermal Unit. A measurement of the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.
CARBON DIOXIDE A colorless, odorless, noncombustible gas made of carbon and oxygen molecules, which animals exhale when they breathe. Plants use this chemical in photosynthesis.
CELL The area in a landfill where several layers of solid waste are deposited each day. At the end of the day, the layers are covered with soil and a cell is formed. Cells are built side by side and on top of one another until the landfill is completely filled.
COMBUSTIBLE Capable of starting on fire.
COMMERCIAL SOLID WASTE The waste from businesses.
COMMUNITY A group of people living in the same place and sharing the same government.
COMPOST A rich, soil-like mixture that is produced when organic materials, such as yard, garden, and kitchen wastes, break down.
COMPOSTABLE Able to biodegrade, or break down when exposed to microorganisms under the right environmental conditions.
CONSERVATION The wise use of natural resources, to minimize their loss and waste.
CONTAMINATE To make impure or not clean.
CORRUGATED Cardboard made up of several layers, including a middle layer that is bent into a series of ridges and grooves with air spaces in between.
CULLET Scrap glass that has been broken into tiny pieces.
CURBSIDE RECYCLING PROGRAM The process of separating recyclables to be picked up by a recycling truck at our homes. Many cities and communities now have curbside recycling programs.
CYCLE A continuous process.
DECAY The breakdown of materials, chiefly by bacteria.
DECOMPOSE To rot, or break down.
DEGRADE To break down into simpler chemical forms.
DISPOSABLE Meant to be thrown away after a single use or a few uses, rather than to be saved and reused many times.
DURABLE Made to last for a long time.
ECOSYSTEM A system made up of a community of living things together with their environment.
ENVIRONMENT The elements around us, like the air we breathe and the water we drink that influences our health.
ENVIRONMENTAL CYCLE A regularly recurring chain of natural events that happens all around us every day. For example, a tree grows up and drops seeds that become new trees.
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA) The federal government office in charge of making sure that our environment is safe to live in.
ENVIRONMENTALLY SOUND A product, practice or thing that does not harm or disturb the environment.
ESSENTIAL Necessary.
FELDSPAR A mineral found in many different rocks. It is one of the many materials used to make glass.
FIBERGLASS Small pieces of glass that are made into yarn. The yarn is woven into a fabric that is used in insulation and molded as a plastic.
GARBAGE Solid waste or trash (anything that we throw away).
GLASS A material made by melting silica.
GLASSPHALT A paving material that is very similar to asphalt. It is made of petroleum and cullet, rather than petroleum and gravel.
GRADES (Not the ones in school.) A term used to label different quality-types of the same material. For example, newspaper is a different grade of paper than stationery paper. Each grade is recycled separately.
GROUNDWATER Water in the earth that supplies wells and springs. In many places, wells and springs are used for drinking water.
HAZARDOUS WASTE Waste that can harm the environment because of its chemical makeup.
HOUSEHOLD HAZARDOUS WASTES Wastes found around the house that can harm people or the environment because of their chemical makeup. Examples of household hazardous wastes include paint and paint cans, chemicals, medicines, and inorganic cleaning supplies. Because of their hazardous nature, they should be stored properly and disposed of separately from the rest of household trash.
HUMUS A rich, natural, soil-like fertilizer that is the result of composting.
HYDROGEN SULFIDE A flammable, poisonous gas, made of hydrogen and sulfur molecules, which smells like rotten eggs.
IMPERMEABLE Not capable of allowing a liquid to spread or flow through. Something that is impermeable will not absorb water, for example.
INCINERATOR A furnace or other unit used for burning waste.
INDUSTRIALIST A person who owns or manages an industry.
INORGANIC Things that are not made from plants and animals and doesn’t contain the element carbon.
LANDFILL A place where unwanted materials are dumped, compacted, and covered with dirt.
LEACHATE Water that percolates through a dump or landfill, picking up pollutants along the way.
LIME This powdery material is used to help keep the various ingredients used in papermaking together. It is not to be confused with the green citrus fruit.
LIMESTONE A rock made from many different minerals. It is used to make glass.
LITTER Waste materials carelessly discarded in an inappropriate place. Littering is against the law.
METHANE A highly combustible gas with no smell or color. Methane is produced by solid waste as it decomposes.
MICROORGANISMS Tiny living things that can be seen through a microscope.
MINERAL An inorganic substance found in nature. Gold, silver, and iron ore are minerals.
MINING WASTE The leftovers from the mining of various minerals. These leftovers usually have no use.
MONOFILL Another term for ashfill.
MUNICIPAL SOLID WASTE Solid waste produced in homes.
NATURAL RESOURCES Things in the world around you, such as trees, water, animals, and soil, which are used to make products.
NUTRIENTS Chemicals used as food.
OIL A substance made by prehistoric decay of organic matter, and currently used to produce many products, including fuels and plastics.
OPEN DUMP An open disposal site. In the United States, open dumps are being phased out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
ORE Mineral or combination of minerals from which metals or other valuable substances can be mined.
ORGANIC Made from living organisms such as plants and animals. Ex. tree leaves, wool from sheep
PACKAGING Ways of wrapping products to protect them, advertise them, or make them convenient for sale.
PAPER A thin material made from pulp from wood, old paper, or rags.
PETROLEUM COKE A product made from coal that is used to build fires in furnaces and for making aluminum and steel.
PHOTOSYNTHESIS The process by which green plants convert sunlight and minerals contained in the soil into oxygen that we breathe.
PHOTO DEGRADATION The process of breaking down through exposure to sunlight.
PITCH A thick, dark, sticky substance found in coal, wood, and petroleum. It is used to line the pots in which aluminum is made and to conduct electricity.
POLLUTION In our environment, the condition of being dirty, especially as a result of wastes.
PRECIPITATION A weather term meaning the deposit or fall of rain, sleet, or snow.
PRECYCLING Reducing the amount of waste generated by avoiding disposables and overpackaged articles.
PRODUCT Something that is sold.
PROPAGATION Producing new plants from seeds, leaves, spores, or other plant parts.
PROPERTIES Characteristics.
PURIFICATION To make something clean and pure.
RECYCLABLE Able to be used instead of raw materials to make a new product.
RECYCLE To make materials such as glass, aluminum, paper, steel, and plastic into new products.
RED MUD The material that remains after aluminum has been removed from bauxite ore.
REDUCE To decrease the amount of trash we produce by buying only what we need, avoiding disposables, and buying products that are not overpackaged.
REFUSE Trash, rubbish, anything thrown away.
RENEWABLE RESOURCES Something we use from nature that can be replenished. For example, trees are a renewable resource; a tree can be planted to take the place of one that has been cut down. Oil is not a renewable resource; it takes millions of years for oil to form.
RESIN A natural, organic substance used to manufacture varnish, ink, and plastic.
RESOURCE RECOVERY A term used to describe what happens when the heat created from burning garbage is used to generate electricity.
REUSE To extend the life of an item by using it again, repairing it, or creating new uses for it.
SALT CAKE A white powdery material used to make pulp.
SANITARY LANDFILL A place for disposing of garbage where it is covered each day with soil in order to reduce odors and pest problems. Modern sanitary landfills also have systems for collecting and treating leachate, the polluted water that drains out from the landfill.
SEWAGE Liquid or solid waste which is carried off by sewers and purified in a sewage treatment plant.
SLURRY A thin mixture of water and fine substances such as clay. In a landfill, a slurry wall prevents the movement of slurry beyond the landfill boundaries.
SODA ASH A white material made from the mineral called sodium. Soda ash is used to make glass.
SOIL The upper layer of earth which may be dug.
SOLID WASTE The things we throw away: household trash, yard and kitchen wastes, old machinery and equipment, and many agricultural and industrial wastes.
SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT The ways we get rid of our garbage, including putting it in a landfill, burning it, and recycling it.
SOLID WASTE STREAM OR WASTE STREAM The cycle that solid waste goes through, from the creation of garbage and trash, to depositing waste in landfills and incinerators. The waste stream includes the recycling process.
SOURCE SEPARATION To separate recyclables and nonrecyclables at the place where the trash is created. A curbside recycling program is an example of source separation.
SUMP The lowest area of a landfill into which leachate drains before being pumped out and treated at the landfill or at a sewage treatment plant.
TIPPING FEE The price individuals, communities, and trash hauling companies must pay a sanitary landfill operation to get rid of their trash or the trash they collect. The fee is called a tipping fee because truck drivers must unload by tipping up the back of the truck.
TOPSOIL The top layer of soil containing valuable nutrients.
TRASH Material to be thrown away. Solid waste.
TOXIC Able to cause injury or illness through chemical means.
UNINHABITABLE Unable to support life.
VEGETATION Plants, trees, shrubs, grass, and the like.
WASTELAND Desolate land, unable to support life.
WASTE-TO-ENERGY PLANT A process where energy, in the form of steam or electricity, is produced by burning solid waste, gases, or chemicals.
WATER A clear, colorless, odorless, and tasteless liquid, made of hydrogen and oxygen, that is essential for most plant and animal life.
WATER CYCLE The process by which water circulates on earth, through precipitation (rain or snowfall), runoff, use by plants and animals, percolation to groundwater, and evaporation.
WOOD FIBER A stringy substance made from wood. This substance makes paper feel the way it does. It also helps keep together the ingredients that make paper.
WOOD PULP When wood fibers are combined, they are called pulp. The pulp is used to made paper and paperboard.
YARD WASTE Leaves, grass clippings, and other organic materials collected from lawns. Yard waste is used for compost materials.

Glossary of terms for grades K-6 Provided by Cornell Waste Management Institute

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