Trash-o-saurus, Compost Heaps and Town Dumps, Oh My!

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The Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (CRRA) is bringing the challenges and solutions of waste management to life for school children with two innovative museums. The Garbage Museum, located in Stratford, Conn., and the Trash Museum, located in Hartford, Conn., provide exhibits and programs to emphasize the importance of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover and Rethink.

Children learn the value of reuse with the Trash-o-saurus scavenger hunt game. Photo: Everywheremag.com

Children learn the value of reuse with the Trash-o-saurus scavenger hunt game. Photo: Everywheremag.com

The Garbage Museum opened in 1993 at the CRRA’s Stratford recycling center and receives about 32,000 visitors a year.

As students walk through the front door, they are immediately greeted by a 12-foot tall, 24-foot long dinosaur made of junk.

Trash-o-saurus is made of old cellphones, shoes, license plates, sunglasses, plastic toys and other junk materials the sculptor could get his hands on. The sculpture weighs 2,000 pounds, representing the average amount of garbage and recyclables each person in Connecticut discards on a yearly basis.

As students continue through the Garbage Museum, they walk through the giant “composting pile” tunnel, equipped with fake worms, bugs and pieces of fruits and vegetables.

Educators demonstrate how composting works and allow the kids to see worms in action in a real compost pile.

Students watch from the viewing area as recyclables are sorted. Photo: Boston.com

Students watch from the viewing area as recyclables are sorted. Photo: Boston.com

Visitors can play trash trivia games, be a trash detective, visit art exhibits made of reusable materials and even watch what happens to recyclables in a “sky box” view of the recycling center’s sorting area, where 60,000 tons of recyclable materials are brought each year.

“What’s exciting is the kids go home and tell their parents what they can recycle,” Education Supervisor Satoria Montanari tells USA Today.

The agency also operates a sister facility, The Trash Museum, which drew 27,000 visitors in 2008. Beginning with the Temple of Trash, visitors learn about the problems associated with old-fashioned methods of disposal.

As they move through the museum, the tour focuses on waste management solutions, including explanations of source reduction, recycling, trash-to-energy and landfills. A 12-foot tall, 36-foot wide mural depicts the history of garbage from pre-historic times to the present day.

“We don’t know of any other museums dedicated to garbage and recycling in the country,” says Paul Nonnenmacher, a CRRA spokesman.

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