Waste pollution is a planetary threat, so far away yet so close. Ideally, we wish for zero waste. However, only one-third of the generated waste is recycled in the USA. Being ash is the most common terminal for waste. This image shows the fascinating visual impact of coal ash on a micro-scale. Illinois is one of the nation’s largest producers of coal and coal ash. Although Illinois is poised to become the first state in the Midwest to ban coal-burning power plants, historic coal ash raises concerns at Illinois coal plant sites. As a graduate student and resident in Illinois, my research is expected to shed light on excavating the full potential of ash resources, minimizing ash risks, and turning ash into treasure. We are dedicated to identifying ash value components and establishing the links between critical elements and the potential for maximum benefits. The ash values we discovered so far will help remove dissolved phosphorus from agricultural runoff to combat eutrophication. Beyond this image, we hope to deliver the message: we are on the road to achieving sustainable development - digging into small things will have huge benefits that the ash is not trash but a potential treasure.