Teacher Notes

Who Is Littering?

Forensics Investigation Kit

Materials Included In Kit

Army men, 5
Balloons, clown-type, 10
Bingo chips, 15
Cat toy, 3
Clown noses, 5
Feathers, 1 bag
Fish net, 2
Gloves, latex, 5
Marbles, 10
Microscope slides, plastic, 5
Paint brushes, 5
Pipets, 10
Plant markers, 10
Popsicle sticks, 10
Sample containers, 15
Seed package
Stamps, 5
Styrofoam® peanuts
Town of Bradley Master Map
Wedding wrapping paper, one sheet

Additional Materials Required

Newspaper, multiple sheets

Prelab Preparation

  1. Fifteen different litter sampling containers should be set up and labeled before class.
  2. Each student group should examine and analyze three different containers.
  3. Three suggested littering scenarios are described.
  4. All Littering Sample Containers should contain equal amounts of newspaper and Styrofoam® peanuts as well as the items listed in the scenarios.
Scenario 1—Mr. Blue the scientist and Mrs. Green the gardener
Scenario 2—Mr. Orange the clown and Mrs. Red the bingo player
Scenario 3—Mr. Green the gardener and Mrs. Red the bingo player

Safety Precautions

Follow all normal laboratory guidelines. Wear chemical-resistant gloves. Remind students to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water before leaving the laboratory.


Please consult your current Flinn Scientific Catalog/Reference Manual for general guidelines and specific procedures, and review all federal, state and local regulations that may apply, before proceeding. All items may be saved and reused or disposed of according to Flinn Suggested Disposal Method #26a.

Lab Hints

  • Enough materials are provided in this kit for 30 students working in pairs, or for 15 groups of students. All materials are reusable. This laboratory activity can reasonably be completed in one 50-minute class period.
  • All sample littering containers should contain newspaper and Styrofoam® peanuts to help disguise the discriminating items added to the samples.
  • The following is a list of the items given in the kit and the possible suspects who would most likely have “tossed the items.

    Pipets—Mr. Blue
    Popsicle sticks—Mrs. Red
    Plant markers—Mrs. Green
    Microscope slides, plastic—Mr. Blue
    Balloons, clown-type—Mrs. Red or Mr. Orange
    Bingo chips—Mrs. Red
    Seed package—Mrs. Green
    Latex gloves—Mr. Blue or Mrs. Green
    Clown nose—Mr. Orange
    Wedding paper—Mrs. Green
    Feathers—Mr. Blue
    Fish net—Mr. Orange
    Marbles—Mrs. Red
    Stamps—Mr. Blue
    Paint brush—Mrs. Green
    Cat toy—Mrs. Red
    Army man—Mrs. Red

  • The seed packet and the wedding wrapping paper should be cut into smaller pieces before being placed in the littering sample containers. The seeds may also be added to the containers.
  • The fish net should be bent to fit into the sample container.
  • The suggested littering sample scenarios may be altered in way seen fit. Items not included in the kit may be added or substituted if desired.
  • Gather group data from the entire classroom in order to get a clearer picture of who is littering the “littering path.”

Teacher Tips

  • This activity works well as an introduction to Forensics.
  • Encourage students to do further research on littering and recycling.

Correlation to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Science & Engineering Practices

Asking questions and defining problems
Planning and carrying out investigations
Analyzing and interpreting data
Constructing explanations and designing solutions
Engaging in argument from evidence

Disciplinary Core Ideas

MS-ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems
HS-ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems

Crosscutting Concepts


Sample Data

Scenario 1

Classroom Data

Answers to Questions

  1. Who were the most likely suspects?

    Answers will vary.

  2. What traits describe the suspects?

    Answers will vary.

  3. What possible routes did the suspects take? Give directions.

    Answers will vary.

  4. How could the town of Bradley reduce the amount of littering that was observed?

    Answers will vary.

  5. Describe ways you could help control littering in your neighborhood.

    Answers will vary. Pick up trash in the neighborhood, talk to friends about littering, stop littering, etc…

Teacher Handouts



Keep America Beautiful. www.kab.org (Accessed June 2018)

Student Pages

Who Is Littering?


In this activity, you will use forensic problem solving skills to narrow down and determine who is littering the streets in the town of Bradley.


  • Littering

  • Pollution
  • Forensics


Each year Americans generate nearly 210 million tons of trash. That equates to an average of four pounds of trash per person per day! We produce waste in almost everything we do. Think about some common things that are discarded in our daily trash—organic materials, yard and garden waste, food waste, sewage sludge, paper, wood and old furniture.

The composition of domestic waste in the United States can be broken down as follows:

Yard Waste, Wood—14%

Over 200 billion metal, glass and plastic food and beverage containers are used in the United States every year. Despite extensive recycling efforts, many of these containers end up in the trash or along our roadways. Litter is the result of too little attention to how waste is handled. Careless and casual handling of waste creates litter. People litter for various reasons—many people feel no sense of ownership, even if they are on public property, such as beaches and parks, and they may also think that someone else, such as a highway or maintenance worker, will pick up after them. Also, many people litter if they see that litter has already accumulated in an area.

People of all ages and social backgrounds have been observed littering. Men, women and children are equally likely to litter. Roadways and highways are especially easy targets for litterers. As people spend more time in the car every day, the amount of litter on the roadways tends to increase.

There are seven main sources of litter. (1) Pedestrians who do not use receptacles; (2) motorists who do not use car ashtrays or litterbags; (3) business dumpsters that are improperly covered; (4) loading docks and commercial marinas with inadequate waste receptacles; (5) construction and demolition sites without appropriate tarps and receptacles to contain debris and waste; (6) trucks with uncovered loads; and (7) household trash scattered before or during collection.

What can you do about littering? Set an example for others, especially friends and younger children by using receptacles and not littering. You may also join a local community youth or school group that regularly picks up litter in your area.

Experiment Overview

The ditches in the town of Bradley have been recently polluted by litter. Local authorities have narrowed down the list of suspects to four people—Mr. Orange the clown, Mr. Blue the scientist, Mrs. Green the gardener and Mrs. Red the professional bingo player. The following chart lists a profile for each of the suspects:

The authorities have asked you—the forensic scientist—to help them determine who the culprit(s) is/are. Your help is desperately needed. Who is dumping their garbage on the streets of Bradley?


Litter samples in sample containers, 3 different locations
Town of Bradley Master Map
"Who Is Littering?" Data Table

Safety Precautions

Follow all normal laboratory guidelines. Wear chemical-resistant gloves. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before leaving the laboratory.


  1. Obtain a litter sample and a Town of Bradley Master Map.
  2. The littering sample will be in a numbered littering sample container. Record the litter sample number in the data table.
  3. Search through the littering sample container and record all items in the data table.
  4. Repeat steps 1 through 3 for two other littering sample containers.
  5. Determine which suspect most likely is the source of the litter found in each of the three sample containers. Record the results in the data table.
  6. Using the information from the Experiment Overview section, the entire classrooms data and the Town of Bradley Master Map, determine a path of travel for each possible suspect. Distinguish and draw the path of travel for each suspect on the Town of Bradley Master Map.
  7. Answer all Post-Lab Questions.
  8. Consult your instructor for appropriate disposal procedures.

Student Worksheet PDF


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