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text and art by Thor Wickstrom

It’s garbage

March 2019 Volume 18 er #3 $6.95

We’ve recycled I’ll take those off I wonder what he
your hands. You’ll dispose of does with it?
everything we it safely?
Let’s follow him
could. But this is Sure! and find out!

all trash!

He’s fixing up
old junk!

And selling it
as “vintage”!

Welcome to my little shop! Can I interest What about Of course not!
you in a well-loved chair, legs extra... this old food? That’s lunch.
Or how about some bottle glass art?
You’re selling
Very that?!?

Volume 18, Number 3 March 2019

Liz Huyck Editor
Tracy Vonder Brink Contributing Editor
Emily Cambias Assistant Editor

Jacqui Ronan Whitehouse Art Director

Erin Hookana Designer

David Stockdale Permissions Specialist

ASK magazine (ISSN 1535-4105) is published 9 times a year, monthly except for combined Who eats the old strawberries? page 13
May/June, July/August, and November/December issues, by Cricket Media, 70 East Lake
Street, Suite 800, Chicago, IL 60601. Additional Editorial Office located at 1751 Pinnacle Drive, Departments
Suite 600, McLean,VA 22102. Periodicals postage paid at McLean,VA, and at additional
mailing offices. For address changes, back issues, subscriptions, customer service, or to 2 Nosy News
renew, please visit, email [email protected], write to 4 Nestor’s Dock
ASK, P.O. Box 6395, Harlan, IA 51593-1895, or call 1-800-821-0115. POSTMASTER: Please 29 Ask Ask
send address changes to ASK, P.O. Box 6395, Harlan, IA 51593-1895 30 Contest and Letters
33 Marvin’s Clever Tricks
March 2019,Volume 18, Number 3 © 2019, Cricket Media, Inc. All rights reserved, including back cover: Marvin and Friends
right of reproduction in whole or in part, in any form. Address correspondence to Ask, 70
East Lake Street, Suite 800, Chicago, IL 60601. For submission information and guidelines, Why do historians dig trash? page 28
see We are not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts or other material.
All letters and contest entries accompanied by parent or guardian signatures are assumed to
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Grateful acknowledgment is given to the following publishers and copyright owners for
permission to reprint selections from their publications. All possible care has been taken to
trace ownership and secure permission for each selection.

Photo acknowledgments: “Nosy News,” art © 2009 by Amanda Shepherd; C—Robert

Adrian Hillman/Alamy Stock Photo; 2 (RT) The Maryland Zoo; 3 (RB) NASA/JPL-Caltech;
8 (RT), (LB), (RC), 9 (LT), (RT), (LB), (RB-1), (RB-2), 10 (LT), (RT), (LB),(RB), 11 (LT),
(RT) Tom Uhlman; 11 (LB) Angela Hampton Picture Library/Alamy Stock Photo, (BC)
Teresa Duggan, (RB-1) Martin Christopher Parker/, (RB-2) AlenKadr/; 12 (LB) Jillian Cain Photography/, (RC) Dalibor
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com, (RT) MakroBetz/, (LC) sydcinema/, (LB)
Nikolay Antonov/; 13 (RB) Nigel Cattlin/Alamy Stock Photo; 14 (RT)
Ruskin Photos/Alamy Stock Photo, (LC) Nigel Cattlin/Alamy Stock Photo, (BC) Kichigin/, (LB) Jonathan Plant/Alamy Stock Photo; 16 (LT), (LB), (RT), 17 (LB),
(RT-1), (RC), (BC), (RB), 18 (RT-1), (RT-2), (LC), (LB), (RB), 19 (LT), (LC), (RT), (TC),
(RC), (BC); 17 (RT-2) Rich Carey/; 20-21, 20 (RT)
NASA; 20 (LT) ESA/Mixed-Reality Communication GmbH; 21 (LT) Purdue University, (RB)
© EPFL/Jamani Caillet, (RT) hchjjl/; 22 (TC), (LT), (BC) Surrey Space
Centre, (LB) NASA; 24 (LT) Picsfive/; 24 (RB), 25 (LB) Steelcase; 25 (RT)
Ecovative; 26 (TC) Noppharat4969/; 26 (LB), 27 (LT) Holland Haverkamp,
University of Maine; 27 (6 (LB), 27 (LT) Holland Haverkamp, University of Maine; 27 (RT)
Courtesy of American Museum of Natural History Library #3521, (RC) Courtesy of American
Museum of Natural History Library #411886; 28 (LT), (RT) courtesy Jamestown Rediscovery
(Preservation Virginia); 32 (RT) Johannes Albert/

Printed in the United States of America
From time to time, Ask mails to subscribers advertisements for other Ask products, or makes
its subscriber list available to other reputable companies for their offering of products and
services. If you prefer not to receive such mail, write to us at ASK, P.O. Box 1895, Harlan,
IA 51593-895.

1st Printing Quad/Graphics Midland, Michigan February 2019

Is it time to renew?


Suggested for ages 7 to 10.

Features How do satellites retire?

6 Where Does the Garbage Go? Can we trash trash?page 21
by Your Curb page 23

8 How to Recycle Everything What do you do with old bottles?
by Tracy Vonder Brink

12 Meet the Decomposers
by Anisha Yagnik

15 Ratz’ Guide to Tasty Trash
by Ratsputin

16 Washed Ashore
20 Space Junk

by Charlene Brusso

23 A Trash-Free Future?
by Alison Pearce Stevens

26 What the Past Throws Out
by Tracy Vonder Brink

Would you pay for garbage? page 17

page 6

At the Maryland Zoo, a turtle with a broken by
shell is slowly getting better. It has help Preston

A temporary
go-cart will help
this eastern box

turtle’s shell
to heal.

from a wheelchair made of Legos.

A zoo worker found the hurt

turtle in the wild. The part of its

shell below its body was cracked.

Vets at the zoo did surgery to

connect the broken pieces. But

the shell would need time to

heal, like a broken bone. The

vets needed a way to keep the

shell off the ground.

So a vet’s friend built the Add some

turtle a special Lego wheelchair. turbojets?

The turtle can still use its front legs

to crawl. But the wheelchair protects

its shell as it zooms around.

Cry Like a Baby

When a baby cries, humans listen. And
cats may have figured out how to use
that fact. Researchers have found that
when cats are hungry, they purr with a
higher note, in the same pitch that babies
cry. Humans who listened to tape recordings
of purring cats identified the “feed-me” purr
every time as being more urgent—and therefore
most likely to get some kibble. Over thousands of
years as companion animals, have cats learned how
to get humans to come to their call?

2 ask

Over the Moonmoon art © 2019 by Marnie Galloway

Many planets have moons. But can
a moon have a moon of its own?
Imagine Earth’s moon with a tinier
object spinning around it. No one
has yet seen a moon with its own
moon. But astronomers have done
the math and say that it’s possible.
The first moon would have to be
big, and far away from its planet.

The scientists call this kind of
moon a “submoon.” But online fans
of submoons have come up with
other nicknames. These include
“moonito,” “moonlet,” “grandmoon”
and “moonmoon.” What would you
call a moon’s moon?

Lifting my cupcup,
I ask the moonmoon
To drinkdrink with me.

Satellites are tools that scientists launch into space.

Swarms of large and small satellites circle the

Earth to study the weather or make maps. But now

two very small satellites, known as CubeSats, have

traveled much farther—they are orbiting Mars.

The pair of miniature satellites launched on a

rocket along with the InSight Mars probe. Once

in space, the satellites flew to the red planet on

their own. While InSight drills into the surface,

the CubeSats will orbit Mars and relay signals.

Scientists hope this test will show that CubeSats Each CinubaeSbaatckispascmk.all enough
could be used in future deep-space missions. to fit

ask 3

I can’t believe how much
my family throws away

every week.

That’s it. I’m We’ll
making this a zero help.

waste week.

The less trash I get,
the happier I am!

I can compost These can
that for my go in the
compost too.

What’s he

He’s collecting metal I can use this for a Stop fighting over
to sell for scrap. robot I’m building. my trash!

You can sell I’m gonna
trash for money? be rich.

I was
here first.

4 ask

Hey, I can use those. You’re just throwing Mom threw away my
away money. favorite chair!

I know where we can put it.

What have you been Just what I need
doing with all my trash? for polishing!

Come see. ask 5

Don’t bother,
I had a zero
waste week.

art © 2019 by Mark Hicks Where Does

When you toss something in the trash,
soon a garbage truck will come to take
it away. Then where does it go? That
depends on where you live. Different
towns deal with trash in different ways.

Recycling Right this
A recycling truck way
picks up paper, card-
board, metal, plastic,
and glass. These go to
the recycling plant to
be sorted and made
into new s.

An incinerator is
a huge furnace that
burns trash to make heat and
electricity. The ash that’s left gets
buried in a landfill. Trash ash can
be toxic, so it has to be
stored carefully. But
it takes up a
lot less room
than just
plain trash.

Don’t spill Ship Away
any! Some towns pay to
send their trash to
6 ask landfills or incinerators
in other places.

the Garbage Go? art by
Mark Hicks

Compost Compost
Food waste might go to a composter. In a compost heap, will help our
bacteria and worms break down dead plants and old food. garden grow!

They turn it into good, rich soil. Some people
keep compost heaps in their gardens.
Big commercial composters handle
waste from restaurants and farms.

Landfill Microbes that eat trash make
Some trash gets buried in methane gas. Landfills have vents
landfills. A landfill starts as a to let the gas out so it doesn’t
big hole. Trucks dump trash. Big explode. Some capture the methane.
earth movers push it into place
and crush it down. They cover They use it to fuel garbage
the trash with dirt to keep trucks or make
scavengers away. The bottom electricity.
of a landfill is lined with a
barrier to keep bad things
from leaking into the ground.
Pipes drain away liquid.

Dump When the
A dump is just landfill is full,
what it sounds it’s covered with
like—a place to earth. It might
dump trash. become a park
They are not or pasture.
covered like
landfills. ask 7

by Tracy Vonder Brink
photos by Tom Uhlman

How to Recycle


Now what? What happens to your
recycling after you toss it in
the bin? If you live in Ohio,
Kentucky, Indiana, or West
Recycle it! Virginia, it might go to a

Rumpke Recycling center.
We went to visit one to see
how it works.

Recycling Pickup

Do you put all your recyclables in the
same bin? That’s called single-stream
recycling. That’s how Rumpke Recycling
does it. They handle 1 billion pounds of
mixed recyclables every year.

Curbside recycling bins are emptied
into the trucks. When they’re full, the
trucks head to the Material Recovery
Facility, or MRF.

Front loaders scoop the recycling onto
conveyor belts to start the sorting trip.

Tip It Out

The trucks dump all the recyclables
into huge piles on the tipping floor.
This area is big enough to hold two
days’ worth of recyclables at a time,
about 2.5 million pounds.

8 ask

Move Along! Recycle Checkers

The conveyor belts move 55 Workers stand next to the belts. They
tons of recyclables per hour pull out anything that can’t be recy-
through the MRF. The MRF cled and toss it into bins to be taken to
is a bit like a huge factory the landfill. Plastic bags go up vacuum
filled with big machines. chutes. It’s important to only put recy-
It’s noisy and dusty, but it clables into your bin. The wrong things
doesn’t smell bad. can break the machines or start fires.

The Big Sort No clothing No plastic
or shoes bags
What happens next is a lot
like sorting Legos. As the pile Machines do a lot of the No No hoses
of recycling moves along, sorting, but they aren’t batteries & chains
one material at a time is perfect. So people check
pulled out. First cardboard. after each machine.
Then glass. Then paper. Then
plastics. Each gets sorted
and bundled together.

Paper Shakers

Two more sorters
separate paper.
Recyclables hop up and
down as spinning discs
send paper flipping over
the top. Plastic bottles
bounce off the sides and
land on different belts.

Cardboard Bumper Look! There
goes my bottle!
The stream flows over rows of
spinning metal discs. Light, flat ask 9
cardboard bounces out over the
top and onto another conveyor
belt. Everything else drops between
the discs and continues on.

Glass Breaker Eye Spy Paper There are six
and Plastic different optical
Heavy glass bottles get broken scanners. This
up in the paper sorters. The High-tech scanners one is checking
bits of glass fall onto a glass- use light to spot for HDPE, the
catcher below. They’ll be paper and plastic. kind of plastic
shipped to a glass processing Inside, infrared used in milk jugs.
facility in Dayton, Ohio. beams scan the
stream. Infrared
reflects differently
from paper and
each kind of
plastic. Each
machine looks for
one material. When
it finds some, a
puff of air blows it
off the belt.

Aluminum Eddy

Another magnet creates a strong
magnetic field called an eddy
current. This makes aluminum
cans jump off the belt. Non-
metals continue on.

Steel Can Magnet

A rotating overhead magnet grabs steel
cans as they pass underneath. The cans
stick to the magnet and drop off on the
other side as the drum spins.

Quick, tell it you’re
not a can!

10 a s k

Bottles in Bunkers

At the end of the line, streams
of separated paper, plastics, steel
cans, and aluminum fall into big
bins called bunkers. When the
bunker is full, the recyclables are
pressed into bales.

Boxy Bales

The finished bales are stacked, ready to
be taken away. One bale of aluminum
cans can weigh 900 pounds (400 kg).
Paper bales weigh up to a ton. The bales
are loaded onto trucks or railroad cars.
They’re shipped to companies who turn
the recyclables into something new.

text © 2019 by Tracy Vonder Brink, art © 2019 by Bill Slavin Time for Something New! This park bench used
to be plastic bottles.
Factories buy the metal, plastic, glass, paper, and
cardboard to make new things. So another way to Aluminum and steel can be melted down
recycle is to buy things made from recycled material, and made into new cans, over and over.
like toilet paper made from recycled paper instead of
trees. If cl rs can sell the stuff they reclaim,
the will keep r ycling.

Crushed glass and plastic are
sometimes added to asphalt
to make strong roads.

There’s my
bottle again
but now it’s
all fuzzy!

Old plastic can be spun
into yarn to make fleece
and other clothing.

a s k 11

arbage doesn’t turn into

Meet the soil all by itself.It has he

Gfrom decomposers.Who

Decomposers are decomposers? They’re bugs,
fungi, and bacteria that feast on

The food you don’t eat dead stuff. They break up the
goes into the garbage. But garbage into its basic ingredients.
They eat some, and return the rest

You call it what eats the garbage? to the soil for new plants to use.
garbage... So the cycle continues.
We call it by Anisha Yagnik
delicious! Let’s meet some of this
amazing clean-up crew.

Scavengers Trash heaps offer an
easy meal for seagulls,
The first to feast on garbage are the who like the same
scavengers—animals that are not picky foods people do.
about what they eat. Rats, mice, seagulls,
and raccoons often dine at garbage piles. Rats have
They pick out anything edible and break evolved to live
up trash into smaller chunks.When with humans
they’re done, the decomposers take over. and eat our
Raccoons’ clever
hands can easily
open garbage cans
and trash bags.

Slugs and Snails Slugs like fruit as much as
we do. They don’t mind if
Slugs and snails eat both living and dead it’s a bit rotten.
plants. Their raspy tongues can chew up
text © 2019 by Anisha Yagnik tough vegetables, making it easier
for other decomposers
to get to work.

It might take
this snail a
while to eat
a whole leaf.

I like

strawberries Though

Insects maybe not
that one.

Bugs are champion garbage chewers.

Many eat old plants. Some like paper.

Some prefer meat and bone. In a trash

Pill heap you might spot centipedes, pill
bugs, or
roly polies, munch bugs, beetle larvae, mites, maggots,
on dead leaves. They
help turn dead plants and of course, earthworms.
back into soil.
Give us old These tiny white worms are maggots,
leaves, we’ll What about the larvae of flies. Many insect larvae
this tasty (young insects) are decomposers. Maggots
make soil! are very hungry. They will eat any
bottle? trash, and are especially fond of meat.

Earthworms make soil as they eat through leaves and
old vegetables. In fact, almost all the soil you see has
passed through an earthworm at some point.

a s k 13

Bacteria Bacteria and fungi
(green mold) are
When we say something is “rotten,” often it’s both at work eating
bacteria at work. Bacteria are too tiny to up this old fruit.
see, but they’re decomposing superheroes.
Millions of different kinds of bacteria might What is That’s
be at work in a single trash heap. They that horrible nature
break down food into simpler ingredients. recycling!
Some bacteria make smelly sulfur smell?
and ammonia as they digest trash.
That’s what makes the stinky
garbage smell.

Can you We can eat Fungi
digest this poisons, but not
bottle for Fungi are mushrooms and molds. They
plastic! are not plants. They digest food outside
me? their bodies by spitting out powerful
digesting juices called enzymes.
Wood is tough stuff, but fungi like Different kinds of fungi can digest wood,
the sulfur tuft fungus can break it trash, and even poisonous pollution.
down. These mushrooms digest dead
logs. Without them, the forest would Molds are also fungi.
fill up with dead trees. They love to feed on
garbage. And sometimes,
they let us know that

it’s time for our food
to be garbage. By the
time you see mold
on the outside, the
fungus has already
started to break
down the inside of
whatever is moldy.

Plastic, yum! Wanted: Oil and Plastic Eaters candidate is Colwellia bacteria. They
eat ethane, a relative of gasoline.
One reason oil spills and plastic trash Another possible plastic hero might
are such a problem is that most be waxworms. These caterpillars spit
out a chemical that can eat holes in
We have a decomposers can’t digest them. plastic. If we can figure out how to
big job for So oil and plastic don’t decay— copy it, we might be able to spray it
on dumps to dissolve old plastic.
you! they hang around forever.
Scientists are hard at

work looking for bacteria or
insects that might be able to
decompose plastic and oil. One

Can  art © 2019 by Thor Wickstrom

art by Thor Wickstrom The old, reliable garbage
can at the curb may not be
thrilling, but it’s always there.
A good place to find a bit of
everything. This house could
do better at recycling—but
under the plastic there’s
bound to be some still-green
veggies and not-yet-green
cake. Nice and fresh! But
when you hear the garbage
truck, make a quick exit.

Dump  Compost 

City dumps are the shopping malls For the discerning
of trash. You never know what gourmet, a compost pile
you’ll find. You might have to dig is a lovely layer cake
through paper, light bulbs, broken of deliciousness. On top
chairs, all kinds of stuff. And there’s the fresh stuff.
watch out for seagulls. But be Down below it gets more
persistent! Tasty, well-aged potato and more mushy, until
chips and old pizza are in there at the bottom there’s a
somewhere! If you’re lucky, maybe pungent soup for dessert.
with mushrooms growing on it. Watch out for bugs and
worms, unless you want a
wiggly mouthful.

Dumpster 

Dumpster diving is like opening a treasure box. The

secret is to pick the right spot to dig. Dumpsters

near restaurants or bakeries are best. Or schools—

kids never finish their lunches. Wooo hooo! Score!

Other Dump 

Now this is not a tasty dump. Just
construction waste! Metal, concrete,
plastic pipes—Bleh. No stars for you!

a s k 15

Can you spot a sand shovel? A
bath toy? A boat buoy? What
are those doing in a fish?

Hey, what’s
that doing in
our ocean?

What a beautiful fish! But Washed
take a closer look. What’s Ashore
it made of? Are those bottle
caps? A plastic shovel? A broken chair? Can art save the sea?
Yep, this entire sculpture is made from
plastic trash. And all of it came from
the ocean.

Artist Angela The beautiful rainbow fish was
and a plastic made by artist Angela Haseltine
penguin friend. Pozzi. She likes to go for long
walks on the beach near her home
in Oregon. But she was bothered
by all the plastic trash that kept

washing ashore.Where
was it all coming from?

Hey, you dropped

Lots of them!

16 a s k

Volunteer groups Animals sometimes
collect tons of plastic mistake plastic bits
litter from beaches. in the water for
Scientists estimate plankton or jellyfish.
that 8 million tons of But when they eat
plastic enter the ocean plastic, it makes
every year. That’s 15 them sick.
shopping bags full for
every meter of coast!
Some is dumped in the
water. Some blows off Don’t eat
streets. Wind and ocean that!
currents carry plastic
trash back to beaches.

Angela decided to do
something with all that
trash—turn it into
art. Her sculptures
have recycled more
than 40,000 pounds of
plastic from beaches in
California and Oregon.
The sculptures travel
to zoos and aquariums
around the world.

a s k 17

In 2010, Angela started the

Washed Ashore project. The

project has two goals: clean up

the beaches, and teach people I don’t know

about the problem of ocean which is
plastic.Volunteers collect scarier!

beach plastic and sort it by

color. Then Angela and a

team of artists turn the

plastic into sculptures

that celebrate the beauty

of the oceans. They hope their

work will get people to think

about how our everyday choices

can harm the seas we love.

Scientists estimate that Different colors We found
since plastic was invented, of plastic are some
humans have thrown out sorted into bins.
8 billion tons of it. Much more art
of it is one-use items like supplies!
plastic bags and water

bottles. Only about
10% of plastic gets


Volunteers pick up
plastic trash to
clean beaches.

18 a s k

A welder puts Plastic pieces
together a metal are wired and
frame. stapled onto
the frame.
To make
a lovely

Real fish would
appreciate it
if the plastic
stayed ashore.

Much better! Only
7 billion
tons to go!


3…2…1…Liftoff! The rocket surges The white dots around
upward, carrying a new satellite
Satellites do to help scientists predict the this Earth picture show just
useful jobs weather. As it rises, the rocket sheds
in space. But empty fuel tanks. Finally, it releases some of the thousands of
when they stop the satellite, setting it into orbit
working, they human-made objects orbiting
need help to get around the earth about 12,500
out of the way. miles (20,000 km) up. our planet. Only about 1 in
Since 1957,
Gotcha! humans have put 10 of these dots
thousands of
satellites into is a working
orbit. But
they don’t last satellite. The
forever. What
happens when rest are old
they break or
stop working? satellites, A tiny,
They keep circling rocket fast-moving
d stages, bit of space
it’s getting a bit crowded and other junk punched
up there. debris. this hole in
space shuttle
All of

this space

junk is moving at

thousands of miles an


How do a
you clean up




Calling home base. Space agencies have tr fic
computers that keep track of
Future satellites 22,000 big pieces of space junk.
may have sails that They warn spacecraft to move if it
pop out when their looks like something might hit them.
mission is done. Meanwhile, scientists around the
world are trying to think of ways to
The sail will pull clean up old satellites. There are many
the satellite different ideas. Most try to slow junk
down to burn down and pull it toward Earth. Once
up in Earth’s the object hits Earth’s atmosphere,
atmosphere. friction will cause it to burn up safely.

is dangerous—it can punch a Self-destruct Satellites Call for
space clean-
hole right through a spacecraft. The easiest way to keep space clean
is to build satellites to dispose of up, roger!
Sometimes bits of space junk themselves. When the satellite is no
longer needed, it will fire a thruster The Cleanspace
collide or explode, shattering into or open a solar sail. This will slow the One will catch
satellite so it falls toward Earth. This old satellites in
thousands of smaller pieces. Each could help prevent space trash in the a cage. This is
future. But what about all the junk just a drawing;
piece is now a danger. The more already up there? it hasn’t been
built yet.
nk more Nets and Harpoons
RemoveDebris is one of many
Brusso ideas for trash-collecting
satellites. It has both a
net and a harpoon


Why is it a problem It’s easier to clean
if junk collides? up two cookies...

...than lots of crumbs.

RemoveDebris Scientists are targeting the largest
first scans the junk, pieces of junk first. They want to get
then uses a net or a
harpoon to capture it. A them out of the way before they
prototype is now being break up into more pieces of junk.
tested in space.
Space Blanket
to catch RemoveDebris’
trash harpoon One of the most unusual ideas is a
bit like a space tissue. The “Brane
This high-tech stray junk Craft” is a thin, bendy, solar-powered
blanket wraps spacecraft that looks like a blanket. It
around an old and reel it in. Then will seek out a bit of space junk, wrap
satellite. Solar around, and then power itself down
panels provide it will attach a sail or a to burn up in the atmosphere. So we
power to pull might need a whole box of them.
the satellite thruster to slow the junk down so
down. Any Other Ideas?
it spirals toward Earth. It will use a
Yes! Lots! Engineers are working on
laser to scan the junk to decide how trash-collecting satellites that use
magnets, glue, string, and disposable
best to deal with it. jet packs, to name just a few. Some
are being tested, others are still on the
RemoveDebris drawing board. But with enough good
ideas, maybe we can clean up space
is already being and keep our satellites, and

tested at the astronauts, safe.


Space Station. text © 2019 by Charlene Brusso

Goodnight, The goal is to get
satellite!! satellites to re-enter
Earth’s atmosphere.
When they do, the

friction of air heats
them up so hot
that they burn up


A Trash-Free
Future? Could we have a
world without trash?
by Alison Pearce Stevens, art by Darren Gate

Trash is fact of life. Done The Trash Problem NO TRASH?!? Don’t worry,
eating a sandwich? Toss the Who would there will
wrapper. Tore your pants? There are many ways to make less want that? always be
Dump them in the trash. All over the trash. We can use re-fillable water leftovers.
world, people create garbage that
ends up in landfills and dumps. But bottles instead of plastic ones that
does it have to be that way? Some
creative people think not. They have get thrown away. We can recycle
a vision of a trash-free future.
glass, plastic, metal, and paper.

Food scraps can be composted to

turn into new soil. Everything that

is re-used or recycled means one

less piece of trash.

hat about shoes or chairs text © 2019 by Alison Pearce Stevens, art © 2019 by Darren Gate
or cars? Those are
hard to recycle

because they’re

not made of just

one thing. Is

there any way

to keep these

out of the trash?

Maybe—if we

change the way

they are made in

the first place.

a s k 23

The Plastic Problem Re cycle

Plastic is made from oil. It’s cheap, strong, waterproof, At the landfill, the metal legs
might rust away. The cloth might rot.
and easy to shape into all kinds of objects. That makes But the foam and plastic parts will
stick around—possibly for hundreds
it very useful. But it also doesn’t decompose. And that of years. Plastic lasts a long time. It
doesn’t rot. That’s one reason it’s so
can be a problem. useful. But that also makes it difficult
to get rid of.
• Between 500 billion and 1 trillion
Is there a better way to dispose
plastic bags are made every year. of a broken chair? Why not repair it
instead? If the chair is easy to take
• Most are used for about 15 apart, you could replace a bent leg
with a new one. Then only the leg
minutes. would go into the trash—or it could
be recycled. When items are built to
• Less than 1% (1 in 100) are be repaired, they last longer, so less
goes into the trash.
• The rest go in the trash, where
This office chair
they linger for thousands of years. has been designed
to snap apart
What’s the solution? Can we invent easily, so it can
be repaired or
a plastic that is strong and doesn’t recycled. Every
part of it can be
dissolve, until we want it to? Many re-used.

scientists are working on it.

Are you I’m still Making Better Trash
easy to using all my
recycle? Say you have a chair with a plastic
parts. frame, metal legs, and a cloth seat
with foam padding. It’s all glued
together tightly. If one of the legs
breaks, you might have to throw the
whole chair in the trash. Since it’s
made of many different materials, it
will probably go to the landfill.


24 a s k

This foam is not
plastic. It’s made
from mushroom roots
grown around straw.
It can go right into
the compost pile.

Yet another
reason to love


New Again and Again No part of this snap-apart, I reduced What It’s my new
recyclable chair winds up in a trash by about edible mashed
If your chair is easy to take apart, landfill. It’s never just “thrown eating all the
it’s also much easier to recycle. The away”—it turns back into the pizza! box? mushroom
metal legs go into the metal recycling material to make new things. box! Anyone
bin. The plastic frame goes out with for dessert?
the bottles. Fabric and foam made Getting to a trash-free future
from oil can’t be recycled—but it will mean changing the way we
could be burned as fuel to make heat. make things, and the way we think
about them. These changes are just
Engineers are also working on beginning. But if we can figure it
new types of plastic and foam that out, it could help the world a lot.
decompose more easily. Some of And that’s no trash talk.
these are made from mushrooms
and plants. This can go into the
compost (along with the fabric) to
make new soil. Other new kinds of
plastic dissolve when they meet acid
or special kinds of bacteria.

a s k 25

What the Past

You can learn a lot about people
from what they throw away.

I detect the Have you ever wondered how
presence of people lived long ago? What
did they eat for breakfast? Did
squirrel. they wear hats? What kind of tools
did they use? The answers might be
hiding in their trash.

Clues in the Dump world, oyster-eaters tossed their
empty shells into huge piles—shell
Like modern towns, every long-ago middens. A kind of salt in the shells
village had a garbage pile. These kept anything else buried in the heap
dumps are full of stuff from ordinary from decaying. So animal bones and
lives. A broken sandal, a spoon, other artifacts that were thrown in
a melon rind. Archaeologists are with the shells were also preserved.
scientists who try to find out how
ancient humans lived. And to them, Maine has over 2,000 shell
these ancient trash heaps are treasure middens. Some are 5,000 years old.
When archaeologists tested the shells,
troves. They even give the trash they found that the oysters were only
a special name: middens. eaten in the winter or early spring.
Animal bones in the heaps revealed
History on the that ancient Native Americans also

One thing archaeologists
have learned from old
trash heaps is that ancient
people were very fond of
oysters. Along coasts all over the

This ancient oyster shell was tossed by a diner
on a beach 2,000 years ago.

26 a s k

Throws Out by Tracy Vonder Brink,
art by Rupert Van Wyk

middens. About half the pottery These clay cups
came from a place two days’ walk were used for
away. So the people of Chaco Canyon drinking cocoa.

didn’t make all their

pottery themselves.


tested some pots to see

what kind of food they

once held. They found

traces of…chocolate!

How many years of oyster-eating did it take to Chocolate comes from
make a pile as high as a hill?
the cacao plant. But
ate deer, bear, moose, wild birds,
and many kinds of fish. There were cacao trees only grow
even bones of sea mink and great
auk, a flightless bird that went far to the south, in
extinct in the 1880s.
Mexico and Central
Cocoa from Far Away
America. That means
The ruins of a great city sit in Chaco
Canyon, New Mexico. This was the people from Chaco must
home of the ancestors of the Pueblo
people. Some of the city’s stone have traveled and traded Some cups were found
buildings had hundreds of rooms. with other ancient peoples together in a big heap.
Chaco Canyon was also a gathering
place for religious festivals and trade. from quite far away. Is it cacao Cacao is the tree,
Even long ago, every- or cocoa? cocoa is the drink.
Hundreds of thousands of bits of
bowls, jars, and other pottery have one loved chocolate!
been uncovered in Chaco Canyon’s

I deduce this tribe traded
with candy stores far away.

a s k 27

This small object Into the Well

a metal In 1607, English settlers arrived on the

earw spoon and coast of Virginia. They built a log fort,


then a town, and called it Jamestown.

The settlers dug wells for water.

n one well dried up, they dug

not er. The old wells became

trash pits. the trash built up

ear by yea it formed handy

layers.Archa ologists can read

these l ke a record of the colony.

I deduce hen there was enough One of the most puzzling objects found in the
that the to eat, the trash contained trash well was this piece of armor. Who threw
people of bones of deer, ducks, goats, it away, and why?
this town and pigs. But a layer filled with bones
ate peas of mice, rats, and snakes shows a hard traded with their native neighbors. In
one at a one well, archaeologists discovered
several pieces of armor. Why was
time. perfectly good armor thrown in
the trash? Maybe by the time it was
year when good food was scarce. tossed, the settlers felt safe enough in
their new homes that they no longer
Bits of broken pots showed that needed heavy armor for protection.

colonists brought cookware from What does your own trash say
about you? If a future archaeologist
Europe. But there were also pieces of dug up your town dump, what
would they think about the people
cone-shaped clay cooking pots like who live there?

those the native tribes used. This Future archaeologists
will recognize the
suggests that the people of Jamestown world’s greatest
art © 2019 by Rupert van Wyk


Hey, Sage! Caitlin T. in The rainbow is already in the
California wants to know, light! A prism just separates the
how does a prism make a colors. Light from the sun or a
rainbow? lamp is made up of many colors of
light rays. All together, we see
them as “white”.

After a storm, I sometimes see
rainbow colors in the sky.

Water droplets in the air act
like tiny prisms. Prisms separate
white light into the colors that
make it up.

How? All light travels as waves of energy. Each color light When light waves push through glass, they slow down
a bit and their paths bend. Shorter waves bend
has its own wavelength.
more. So as light moves through a prism’s triangle

shape, the colors spread out—into a rainbow.

Blue light travels in shorter waves. Red light has longer waves. Cool!
But they all travel at the same speed, the speed of light!
a s k 29
What are Helping Leprechauns. They can
you doing? bury their pots of gold at the
end of my rainbows!

In our October issue we Send your letters to Ask Mail,
asked you to make us a 70 East Lake St., Suite 800, Chicago, IL
poster celebrating the 60601, or have your parent/guardian
glories of slime. Thanks email us at [email protected]
to all youeeew splendid
slime supporters for Meet Mr. Slime!
sharing your shout-outs! Anna K., age 11,
New York

Slime is Awesome!
Emily C., age 10,

National Slime Day! Super Slime Hero!
Sidney O., age 8, Camden M., age 8,
Massachusetts Washington

Dear Ask, Dear Mia, Dear Marvin,
I am very worried about WE care! I think lots of Do you know any tricks? If
plastic pollution. It is people care, they just don’t you do, tell me. My common
everywhere! and it seems like know what to do. But I think trick is hiding, popping out,
nobody cares. Can you please if everyone does a little bit, and saying “boo!”.
help? together we can do a lot. I’m
working on a special spray Yours truly,
Sincerely, that will dissolve plastic when Lucas B.,
Mia R. you say the magic word. Rhode Island


30 a s k

Slime Rocks! Queen of Slime!
Niamh L., Livi B., age 9,
age 8, California
New York

Play with Slime
Maggie, age 6,

Slime is the Best!
Nathalie L.,
age 9,

Slime is Awesome! Super Slime!
Tony C., age 8, Scarlet H.,
Texas age 7,
New York

Dear Lucas, Dear Zia, Dear Gabriella,
I used to jump out at people My favorite color is lavender. Lavender is very lovely! It
and say “BOO!” but now I What’s yours? I am also also smells nice, if you have a
jump out and say “There learning to speak Filipino. lavender bush in your garden.
are millions of tons of How do you say “lavender” in
plastic floating in the ocean!” Bye for now, Filipino? That might be a good
AAAAaaaah! That’s very scary. Gabriella H., word to learn so you can get
Washington the right color shoes and ice
Use with caution, cream.

a s k PB

March Contest

Recycled Art

Who decides what’s trash, and what’s art
supplies? Maybe you. For this month’s
contest, collect some interesting bits of
junk and use them to make a unique
piece of art. This kind of art is called
“found object art.” Snap a picture of
your recycled masterpiece, and we’ll
curate a collection of the most captivatin
in an upcoming issue of Ask.

Contest Rules: 5. Your entry must be signed or emailed 7. Email scanned artwork to [email protected]
by a parent or legal guardian, saying it’s, or mail to: Ask, 70 East Lake
1. Your contest entry must be your very your own work and that no one helped St., Suite 800, Chicago, IL 60601. Entries
own work. Ideas and words should not you, and that Ask has permission to must be postmarked or emailed by March
be copied. publish it in print and online. 31, 2019.

2. Be sure to include your name, age, and 6. For information on the Children’s Online 8. We will publish the winning entries in an
address on your entry. Privacy Protection Act, see the Privacy upcoming issue of Ask.
Policy page at
3. Only one entry per person, please.
4. If you want your work returned, enclose

a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

32 a s k

art by
Thor Wickstrom

Can you make an arrow change its mind?

Challenge your friends to a pointing What to do
contest! Can they make an arrow
drawn on an index card reverse itself 1. With a marker, draw a thick arrow
without flipping over the card? You on an index card (or any paper).
can! If you have a handy glass. Make the pointy end nice and big.

What you’ll need 2. Now, hold the card a couple of
inches behind the glass. Look at the
• A tall, clear drinking glass, arrow through the glass of water.
full of water
3. And presto, the arrow will look like
• An index card or piece of paper it’s pointing the other way! If it isn’t,
• A marker move the card closer and farther
from the glass until it works.

What’s going on

As light passes through the glass and
water, its path bends. The glass acts like
a lens that reverses the image. The light
rays from the back of the arrow exit
the glass where the front should be, and
vice versa. So the arrow looks like it’s
decided to point the other way!

A glass of water
bends light like a lens.

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