Go out and conduct a litter survey with your students. You will need: Sticks and two-metre lengths of string. Ideally gloves and/or picking tools. Agree on any litter the students will not pick up, e.g. because it is hazardous.
1. Divide the students up into groups, each with their own area to survey.
2. Each group sets up the stick in the centre of their area and ties the string securely to the stick.
3. The groups collect all the litter they find outward from the stick within a two-metre radius in all directions. Both large and small pieces of litter should be collected.
4. Once all litter has been collected, it’s time to count and sort. Decide on the process together, so that all groups use the same method.
For example, count the number of cigarette butts, plastic bags and food and drink packages. Or sort by material: metal, plastic, paper, etc.
Ask the students to consider:
• What type of litter did you find?
• What litter was most common?
• Who do you think dropped the litter – can you tell where it comes from? For example, is it litter from industry or from individual people? Children or adults?
• Compare the different areas of the groups. Was there different litter in the different locations? Was there more litter in a certain location?
If so, what might be the reason?
Litter statistics & quantities
Use the results from the litter survey for exercises in maths lessons. Adjust the level of difficulty to suit the prior knowledge of the students.
Produce litter statistics relating to: • Different materials. How much was made of metal, plastic or card? • What percentage was plastic bags, food tins, sweet wrappers or cigarette butts? • What was the most common type of litter? What was least common? • How much litter did the class find in total? • How much litter was found per m²?
Save the results! When you do litter surveys again, next year or at different times of year, you can compare and calculate the percentage increase or decrease over time.
Get the students to create tables and pie charts showing the results of the litter surveys.