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What to Do About Trash?

"What To Do About Trash?" artwork. Trashcan surrounded by trash piles.


NGSS Standards:



Crosscutting Concepts:

Cause and Effect

Transcript-What to Do About Trash
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Trash is one of the biggest problems on the planet. But scientists are coming up with solutions that might surprise you. In this Earth Day episode, we meet two researchers who are tackling trash in two very different ways. Kevin Solomon hopes to solve the challenge of recycling plastic with the help of meal worms, and Lily Pollans is figuring out what kids can do to help everyone make less trash. Find out how science can help tackle Earth’s biggest challenges - and how you can help.


Kevin Solomon is a chemical and biomolecular engineer. With Mark Blenner, he's working on using meal worm gut microbes to improve plastic recycling systems.

Photo of Kevin Solomon

In 2020, he won an award from the US Department of Energy. Here's a video where he describes his research:

Lily Pollans is a social scientist who studies how people and cities deal with trash. She's also the author of Resisting Garbage: The Politics of Waste Management in American Cities. It's a deep dive for grownups into the promise and challenges of trash!

Photo of Lily Pollans


There are many ways to make less trash. It starts with buying only the things you need. Like food at the grocery store. Here's advice make sure your family buys only what you'll eat.

Here are even more tips to reduce waste in other areas of your home life.

But the biggest impacts comes not from individual people, but from groups of people. In the episode, we talk about city composting programs. Here's an example of how one city started teaching its citizens to compost:

Look up your own city or town's waste management programs. Just google [Name of your town] and "Waste management department." With the help of a grownup, you can learn what your town does - and see if there's room for you to help improve!

Want to organize a letter writing campaign? This website explaining how to do it is aimed at grownups in California, but kids everywhere can learn a lot from it too!


In the episode, Kevin Solomon told us that much of what we put in our recycling bins doesn't end up getting recycled. This article explains why - and how some people are working to change that.

Here's a video explaining Kevin & Mark's research with mealworms:

Read the related article: Untapped Potential

Teens have studied plastic eating mealworms too! Science News for Students has a great article about students' science fair experiments on wormy plastic recycling. Read it here!

Learn more about different types of microbes eating different types of plastic in an article in Science.

Tell us if you listened to this episode for Earth Day! Contact us at


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