Illinois State University: Solid Waste Characterization and Opportunity Assessment of the Bone Student Center

Photo of ISTC staff and ISU volunteers during the waste audit at Bone Student Center.
Photo of ISTC staff and ISU volunteers during the waste audit at Bone Student Center.

Project Title: Illinois State University: Solid Waste Characterization and Opportunity Assessment of the Bone Student Center

Sectors: Higher Education, Caterers, Food Service, Retail

Location: Normal, IL

Services: Implementation Assistance, Stakeholder Engagement, Fostering Sustainable Behavior, Waste Characterization/Reduction/Management

Background: In June 2022, Illinois State University (ISU) completed the University’s first-ever Sustainability Strategic Plan. Among the many topics covered in the plan, “Materials Management and Waste Reduction” was a key focus. Soon after the release of the report, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) Technical Assistance Program (TAP) reached out to the ISU Director of Sustainability, Elisabeth Reed, to discuss opportunities for support and collaboration. After several discussions, it was decided that ISTC would conduct a waste characterization study (waste audit) to collect, sort, and weigh waste and recycling samples and identify opportunities for waste reduction and diversion. The Bone Student Center’s variety of uses and activities made it a good representation of the types of waste generated across the ISU campus.

Approach: Beginning in June 2023, ISTC began meeting with the ISU team to better understand the various areas and activities of Bone Student Center along with discussing the logistics of collecting and sorting waste and recycling samples. It was determined that ISTC, along with ISU volunteers, would collect waste and recycling samples from three “activity zones” of the Bone Student Center:

  1. Catering – This included one kitchen and one dishwashing room used by both catering staff and retail outlets.
  2. Retail – This encompassed food service locations as well as some indoor and outdoor seating locations used by customers.
  3. Concourse & Office – This encompassed general hallways, lounge and study spaces, event halls, one classroom, and office spaces.

The physical collection, sorting, and weighing of material took place on September 26-27th, 2023 in the Visitor parking lot of the Bone Student Center on the ISU campus. As per the ASTM D5231 standard for processing solid waste, we aim for 200-pound samples of both landfill-bound trash and single-stream recycling.

The TAP team also conducted a walkthrough of the Bone Student Center, taking pictures, observing current waste management practices, and conducting informal stakeholder engagement in each of the three activity zones.

The resulting report, presented to ISU staff in December 2023, describes and visualizes our findings from this data. An Opportunity Assessment included within that report details strategies and recommendations to reduce overall waste generation and divert additional materials from the landfill in each of the three activity zones, categorized as:

  • Education (e.g., Develop standardized educational signage for all single-stream recycling bins.)
  • Collection Container Improvement (e.g., Ensure trash and recycling bins are co-located to make recycling more convenient for building occupants.)
  • Programs & Procedures (e.g., Target single-use plastics or plastics not accepted in single-stream recycling bins.)

Results: Through this waste characterization study, the TAP team collected data that will inform ISU’s commitment to their Sustainable Strategic Directions of Food and Events as well as Materials Management and Waste Reduction.

“The waste characterization study conducted by the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center provided valuable data that will guide us towards more sustainable practices within our student center and throughout our campus. The knowledge and expertise of the ISTC team elevated our understanding of various waste streams and provided realistic solutions towards diversion and waste reduction.”    — Elisabeth Reed, ISU Director of Sustainability

Other projects with this client: None at this time.

Building a Culture of Composting in Greater Chicagoland–Food Waste Technical Assistance for Small Food Businesses

Image of a compost bin, full of food scraps, surrounded by green grass.
“Composting” by Trish walker is marked with Public Domain Mark 1.0. To view the terms, visit

Project Title: Building a Culture of Composting in Greater Chicagoland–Food Waste Technical Assistance for Small Food Businesses

Sectors: Small Businesses, Grocery Stores, Caterers, Restaurants/Bars, Food Service, Retail, Hunger Relief Agencies

Location: Greater Chicagoland, Illinois

Services: Fostering Sustainable Behavior, Implementation Assistance, Resilient Solutions, Stakeholder Engagement, Waste Characterization

Background: In fall of 2022, University of Illinois Extension received funding from the Extension Foundation USDA-NIFA New Technologies in Ag Extension (NTAE) program for the expansion of its “Building a Culture of Composting in Greater Chicagoland” project. This project aims to divert food scraps and organic waste from landfills through educational efforts on the benefits of composting. Prior to receipt of this grant, Illinois Extension partnered with community organizations on Chicago’s southside, works with Chicago Public Schools, and promotes composting through “Pumpkin Smash” and other events in Cook County. Grant funds have allowed for the expansion of efforts to Lake and McHenry counties, and collar counties. Illinois Extension also hosted a regional compost summit in May 2023. The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center Technical Assistance Program (TAP) was engaged as a collaborator on the project, to provide food waste technical assistance for small businesses.

Approach: TAP recruited five small food businesses (e.g. restaurants, independent grocery stores, caterers, bakeries, etc.) to receive assistance free of charge (expenses are covered by the NTAE grant). TAP prioritized partnerships in communities overburdened by environmental issues and lacking resources, defined as disadvantaged communities by the Climate & Economic Justice Screen Tool. Taking action to reduce wasted food may help businesses save money, reduce their environmental footprint, feed their community, as well demonstrate their commitment to sustainability. Interested businesses filled out a short application to verify eligibility and clarify required participant time commitments. TAP worked with the five selected participants from March-August 2023.

TAP had initial conversations with each participating business to review operations and provide overview information on strategies and reasons for reducing food waste. Next, TAP staff provided on-site facility assessments of current conditions, infrastructure, and processes. This was followed by a food waste audit for each participating facility, resulting in an initial recommendation report and associated resources. TAP reviewed recommendations with the participant facilities and worked with them to plan implementation. Participants were eligible for funding through the project to pilot a commercial compost hauling service (for up to 5 months). Finally, after and/or during the implementation of recommendations, TAP convened the five participating organizations at a feedback session, so they could share challenges, barriers, and lessons learned. Participants’ efforts were summarized in a case study at the end of the project (see the Results section below).

Ultimately, the goal was to lead interested businesses through the process of assessing current operations and waste generation to identify opportunities for food waste prevention and reduction. Subsequent implementation assistance will hopefully lead to overall waste reduction and increased composting at participating facilities.

Results: Descriptions of the five participating businesses, results of their food waste audits, a summary of recommendations made, project outcomes, and challenges faced by participants are outlined in the project case study below.

Food Waste Technical Assistance for Small Businesses (2023)

Other projects with this client (Illinois Extension): None at this time

Illinois Farm to Food Bank Feasibility Study & Pilot Projects

Cover page of the farm to food bank feasibility study report

Project Title: Illinois Farm to Food Bank Feasibility Study & Pilot Projects 

Sectors: Non-profits, Hunger Relief Agencies, Agriculture 

Location: Illinois, Statewide 

Services: Fostering Sustainable Behavior, Implementation Assistance, Resilient Solutions, Stakeholder Engagement, Supply Chain Sustainability, Sustainability Planning, Waste Management 

Background: In early 2020, staff from Feeding Illinois and the Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) began discussions related to expansion of programs and opportunities for moving surplus food commodities to hunger relief agencies throughout the state. These agencies reached out to the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) Technical Assistance Program (TAP) to discuss the types of data and analyses needed to support such efforts. Plans began for a feasibility study, involving collaboration with the Illinois Specialty Growers Association, (ISGA) to expand and improve farm to food bank commodity flows. After receiving funding from the USDA, Feeding Illinois engaged TAP to conduct the feasibility study in collaboration with various project partners (See the “Acknowledgements” section of the feasibility report). 

Approach: In order to better understand how Feeding Illinois food banks operate, TAP visited all eight member foods banks to tour the facilities and conduct informal interviews on the topic of fresh foods. TAP also virtually met with organizations managing Farm to Food Bank-style programs around the country to learn about their programmatic approaches, farmer compensation models, daily challenges, and recommended best practices. In total, TAP interviewed organizations from 14 states: Arizona, California, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin. Overarching themes and key lessons from these various interviews were compiled. (See “Exploring the Development of an Illinois Farm to Food Bank Program” in the “Results” section below.) 

Beginning in January of 2021, TAP administered a voluntary survey of Illinois farmers to better understand current farming practices, available market channels, and barriers to working with food banks. Data used from this survey was intended to develop strategies to expand commodity markets available to farmers and increase the supply of fresh food at food banks and food pantries. (See “Farm to Food Bank Survey Results” in the “Results” section below.) 

Additionally, TAP administered five farmer focus groups to gather more in-depth feedback and opinions on options for off-grade and surplus produce as well as facets of a Farm to Food Bank program. TAP hosted two in-person focus groups at the Illinois Specialty Growers Conference in Springfield, IL on January 5-7th, 2022, and three virtual focus groups hosted on Zoom. Two of the virtual focus groups took place January 12th and one on February 1st, 2022. Focus groups were each one hour long and consisted of four to six participants, with a total of 25 farmers participating. TAP worked with IFB to ensure participants included individuals from across the state as well as minority, women, and urban farmers. Participants also represented a wide range of ages. Farmers invited to participate were those that indicated interest on the ISTC administered survey and suggestions from the IFB and the ISGA. To be eligible, participants had to be 18 years of age and operated a farm or garden within Illinois. No compensation was provided for participating in the focus groups. A consent form was signed by each participant and strategies to ensure confidentiality and anonymity were read aloud at the start of each session. The described protocols were evaluated as exempt for review by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Institutional Review Board (Protocol #22325). Focus group format consisted of an introduction to the research project, an ice breaker, and eight key questions with follow-ups and prompts. The same eight questions were asked during all five focus group sessions. Feedback was analyzed and compiled in the feasibility study report prepared by the ISTC TAP for Feeding Illinois. (See “Exploring the Development of an Illinois Farm to Food Bank Program” in the “Results” section below.) 

A preliminary pilot project was also included in the original feasibility study. Feeding Illinois partnered with Rendleman Orchards during the 2021 growing season to ensure no fruit went to waste. Through the USDA’s Farm to Food Bank grant, Feeding Illinois was able to pay Rendleman Orchards its picking and pack-out costs (PPO) which represent the farm’s costs to harvest and package the product and enabled the donation of the peaches, nectarines, and apples. The fruit was either off-spec, meaning it did not qualify to be sold in typical primary markets due to size/weight/blemishes, or surplus, meaning that the farmer did not have a buyer or market outlet for the fruit. Rather than the fruit going to waste, Feeding Illinois helped Rendleman Orchards recoup their costs and provide fresh local nutritious fruit to Illinois neighbors in need. After completion of the growing season, TAP and Feeding Illinois worked with Rendleman Orchards, Tri- State Food Bank, and St. Louis Area Foodbank to gain feedback and evaluate the pilot project. All parties were very happy with the result of the project and would like to increase participation in 2022. (See “Farm to Food Bank Pilot: Rendleman Orchards” in the “Results” section below.) 

Through these interviews, surveys, focus groups, and pilot projects it became clear that a such a program would be welcomed by both the farming and food banking communities. In April 2022, a report prepared by the ISTC TAP for Feeding Illinois was published summarizing research efforts undertaken from December 2020 – February 2022 that have led to this conclusion along with identifying strengths, weaknesses, threats, opportunities, and recommendations for a statewide Farm to Food Bank program. (See “Exploring the Development of an Illinois Farm to Food Bank Program” in the “Results” section below.) 

In the remainder of 2022, extending into 2023, TAP worked with Feeding Illinois and other project partners to continue pilot project efforts with Rendleman Orchards. Additional pilot projects with other growers and farmers markets were conducted to test various fresh food aggregation strategies. The project team also continued outreach and engagement efforts with farmers to both increase participation and gather feedback on the program. 

In the fall of 2023, IL Governor J.B. Pritzker signed House Bill 2879, officially establishing a Farm to Food Bank Program in Illinois (see links below in the “Results” section)! ISTC continues to support Feeding Illinois and other project partners in launching the program.

Results: This project is ongoing. Below are links to publications, websites, and relevant results to date. 

 Other projects with this client (Feeding Illinois): None currently, as this project is ongoing. 

Materials Management Advisory Committee Report to the General Assembly

Illinois EPA logo

Project Title: Materials Management Advisory Committee Report to the General Assembly

Sector: State Government
Location: Illinois, Statewide
Service(s): Sustainability Planning, Stakeholder Engagement, Resilient Solutions

Background: In July 2019, Governor Pritzker signed House Bill 3068, which created the Statewide Materials Management Advisory Committee (MMAC). Coordinated by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and comprised of a wide variety of recycling, composting, materials management, and solid waste professionals, the Committee was charged with investigating current recycling and solid waste practices and recommending options to the Illinois General Assembly to divert wastes from Illinois landfills. These recommendations were also meant to include improvements to the form and contents of county waste management plan required by Illinois law.

Shantanu Pai of the ISTC Technical Assistance Program (TAP) served as co-chair (along with Suzanne Boring of the Illinois EPA) for the MMAC Measurement Subcommittee. Additional subcommittees existed for education and outreach, infrastructure development, market development, and local government support. Though not official members of the MMAC or its subcommittees, TAP staff members Savannah Feher, April Janssen Mahajan, and Joy Scrogum provided support to the measurement subcommittee and to the overall efforts of the MMAC and Illinois EPA coordinating team for the achievement of the MMAC goals.

Approach: The primary purpose of the Measurement Subcommittee was to identify, capture, and evaluate existing data reflecting the state of waste and materials management in Illinois in 2018, the base year for the reported data. Using those data, the Measurement Subcommittee was tasked with developing a matrix reflecting the environmental impacts of diverting specific materials from landfills and relaying that information to the entire Committee. This data was gathered through multiple efforts, including a statewide survey sent to all Illinois counties to gather information about solid waste planning, reporting, and programs across the state, as well as outreach to all documented waste infrastructure sites across the state (including transfer stations and collection sites for landfill-bound, recyclable and compostable materials) to verify site status and details. This infrastructure information was then used to create interactive maps that allow users to access accurate and up-to-date information regarding disposal options near them.

The overall MMAC findings, along with the associated recommendations from various subcommittees, were compiled in report form and submitted to the 102nd General Assembly on July 1, 2021.

Results: The full MMAC report submitted to the Illinois General Assembly is available online at

An ISTC blog post provided an overview of this effort.

Monitor the Illinois General Assembly website and the Illinois EPA Materials Management pages for future updates. See also the recorded Illinois Recycling Association/Illinois Recycling Foundation webinar from April 2021 in which provided an overview of the MMAC draft recommendations at that time.

Other Projects with this Client (Illinois EPA):

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Nitrile Glove Recycling

Images of the two custom glove bin options presented to University Housing
Two glove recycling bin options presented to University Housing.

Project Title: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Nitrile Glove Recycling

Sector: Higher Education
Location: Champaign-Urbana, IL 
Service: Implementation Assistance, Stakeholder Engagement, Fostering Sustainable Behavior

Background: The Technical Assistance Program (TAP) conducted a waste audit of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) headquarters building on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus in February 2013. The results of the waste audit revealed that single-use non-hazardous gloves were 13% of the ISTC waste stream at the time. The Zero Waste Illinois team explored multiple options to reduce and recycle the single-use non-hazardous gloves. Kimberly Clark, a company that manufactures nitrile gloves, takes their gloves back to recycle into park benches, bike racks, etc. through their RightCycle program. ISTC piloted the use of the RightCycle program throughout its labs.

The subsequent UIUC campus waste characterization studies revealed single-use non-hazardous gloves were significant components of the waste stream at other campus locations. Thus, the expansion of the nitrile glove recycling program to other campus locations was explored.

Approach: After successfully integrating the glove recycling project within ISTC labs, the Zero Waste Illinois team explored expanding this program for University Housing at its dining operations, with funding from the UI Student Sustainability Committee. The dining hall at Ikenberry Commons was selected as the pilot facility for the glove recycling program within University Housing. After several meetings with various stakeholders in University Housing Dining Services, collection was deemed to be the critical step in the process. It was determined that installing a collection bin to hang off existing trash bins would be a simple, inexpensive way to encourage proper separation of the used nitrile glove for recycling. Since no appropriate commercial collection unit was available, two custom-designed options were presented to the dining hall. Created using Inventor, a 3D design program, one option was a 3D-printed plastic piece designed to latch onto the side of existing Brute trash containers while securely cradling a small recycling container for the gloves. The other option involved screwing two hooks through the side of a small recycling bin and then using the hooks to hang the recycling bin from a trash container. Although the plastic piece was more creative and designed by a University of Illinois student, in a University of Illinois lab, it was more expensive to roll out. Therefore, the hook design was implemented across all dining operations.

Results: In 2020 dining diverted over 7,000 lbs. of gloves through this program. Based on this pilot project, the University explored expansion of the glove recycling program at other campus locations. See for status updates.

Other projects with this client:

University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Sustainable Materials Management Plan

UIC SMM plan coverProject Title: University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan

Sector: Higher Education
Location: Chicago, IL
Services: Fostering Sustainable Behavior, Resilient Solutions, Stakeholder Engagement, Sustainability Planning, Waste Characterization and Management

Background: UIC engaged the ISTC Technical Assistance Program zero waste team to conduct a waste characterization study and assist with the development of a sustainable materials management plan.

Approach: Beginning in 2019, many stakeholders observed current waste management practices and coordinated and conducted a waste characterization study to represent campus-wide activities. Study results and annual material generation data were analyzed and extrapolated, campus focus groups were held to provide input for ideal material management, and the research and recommendations were collated into one comprehensive plan to increase waste diversion and ultimately achieve a zero-waste campus.

UIC partnered with TAP to conduct the waste audit, engage stakeholders, and spearhead plan development. The plan identifies nearly 100 strategies for waste reduction and diversion and was informed by the results of a November 2019 waste audit, along with insightful input received from students, faculty, staff, and community members.

The waste characterization study included more than 3,300 pounds of trash from 14 buildings and outdoor campus collection bins sorted into 32 material categories.

The audit team used an activity zone approach to capture waste from buildings by use, such as administrative offices, academic and lab settings, student residence halls, and multi-use spaces.

Landfill and recycling bins from various outdoor areas of campus, such as along internal walking paths, busy urban corridors, and in parking structures, comprised an “On-the-go” activity zone. The study team and an enthusiastic group of student, staff, and faculty volunteers sorted the waste over the course of a wintery week.

Co-led by ISTC, and UIC’s Office of Planning Sustainability and Project Management (PSPM), a team of staff, faculty, and students from various departments, external partners and industry experts developed the Sustainable Materials Management Plan.

Together team members worked to document and understand current waste management practices and analyzed waste generation. The Plan categorizes campus waste to show what is avoidable, currently recyclable, compostable, potentially recyclable, and non-recoverable.

The data revealed that 33% of the overall waste stream on campus is compostable material, such as food scraps. Nineteen percent of the waste stream is composed of recyclable materials such as paper or plastic bottles. Eighteen percent of the waste stream on campus consists of avoidable materials such as paper towels and disposable beverage cups. Five percent of the waste stream is comprised of potentially recyclable material such as plastic film and gloves that could be diverted through source-separated streams.

The remaining 24% of the waste stream consists of materials that are currently non-recoverable, i.e. items for which recovery end markets or programs do not yet exist, or for which solutions are not yet available at UIC or in surrounding areas. This includes items like single-use equipment and other non-recyclable paper, glass and plastic items.

“Data has been a critical part of our success in reaching almost a 50% recycling rate at UIC over the past decade, even while the number of students on campus has grown by 20%. With the help of data, the recycling program at UIC has vanquished a once prevalent view that Chicago doesn’t recycle. With the report from the ISTC led waste audit, the volume of food scraps, and the presence of currently recyclable materials point to impactful steps we must take in waste reduction, outreach, and education,” stated Joe Iosbaker, UIC’s Recycling Coordinator.

Bar graph showing the percentage of various types of materials present in the UIC waste stream during the November 2019 waste audit

The study team also gathered input from members of the campus community through an online survey and a series of focus groups. Discussions shed light on knowledge, perceptions, and expectations of waste management infrastructure, the overall campus culture surrounding resource recovery, waste-related priorities, and challenges. This feedback from the UIC community was used to develop strategies to increase recycling and waste reduction. Through this multi-layer process, UIC now has a comprehensive roadmap to build from the 47% recycling rate today and prime the conditions for a zero-waste campus by 2050.

“The comprehensive presentation in the Materials Management Plan provided by ISTC gives us a greater understanding of the tasks we have,” Iosbaker asserted. Assistant Vice-Chancellor and Director of Sustainability Cindy Klein-Banai reinforced those sentiments stating, “This study has provided the data and next steps for robust strategies for reaching our Zero Waste Goal within the UIC Climate Commitments. It also demonstrates the need for broad responsibility in developing our program across all units and departments of the university.”

“ISTC’s Zero Waste team acknowledges the great potential of a comprehensive, campus-driven Sustainable Materials Management Plan,” shared April Janssen Mahajan, Sustainability Specialist at ISTC. “We fully embraced the challenges and opportunities this project offered to help UIC reconsider, reimagine and redefine campus waste and materials management in support of the university’s mission to become a Zero Waste Campus.”

Results: UIC Sustainable Materials Management Plan

Other projects with this client: None at this time

Other projects in the higher education sector:

Green Lunchroom Challenge

Green Lunchroom Challenge logo

Project Title: Green Lunchroom Challenge

Sectors: K-12 schools (primary original sector targeted), Higher Education, Institutions (any with on-site food service)
Location: Illinois (primary focus); United States (Beyond IL)
Services: Implementation Assistance, Fostering Sustainable Behavior, Stakeholder Engagement, Waste Characterization

Background: According to a 2012 report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, food production represented 10 percent of the total US energy budget, uses 50 percent of US land, and accounted for 80 percent of the freshwater consumed in the US — yet, 40 percent of food in the US went uneaten. According to Feeding America, in 2013, 49.1 million Americans lived in food-insecure households, including 33.3 million adults and 15.8 million children.* Food waste is clearly both a tremendous problem and an opportunity for improving the sustainability of our society. Reducing food waste in schools not only helps to ensure those precious expended resources are providing nutrition as intended, but also provides the opportunity to set important examples of conservation and systems thinking among our impressionable youth, which will hopefully stay with them as they become our next generation of leaders.

Funded by US EPA Region 5, this project focused on food waste prevention and reduction at K-12 schools.

*See the second edition (2017) of the NRDC “Wasted” report at for more recent statistics. See for more recent statistics related to US food insecurity.

Approach: Launched in 2015, the Green Lunchroom Challenge (GLC) was a voluntary pledge program for schools to improve the sustainability of their foodservice operations. By registering, participants were accepting the challenge to reduce and prevent food waste in their facilities. The GLC website provided suggested activities that ranged in complexity and commitment, to allow participants to best suit their situation, budget, and available community resources. Participants were not required to complete activities, but with each activity that was completed successfully, they earned points toward recognition at different “levels of accomplishment” (Bronze: 250-500 points; Silver: 501-1000 points; Gold: 1001-1900 points; Platinum: 1901 or more points).

In addition to typical activities related to food preparation, presentation, and waste disposal, schools could also choose to integrate food waste prevention and reduction into curricula, helping students learn about food security and hunger, composting, the circular economy, and stewardship. Links to archived suggested activities are available at Participants that achieved different levels of accomplishment are highlighted on the GLC website and received certificates for on-site display. TAP staff members also provided comments and recommendations for further improvement to participants based on activity documentation submitted.

GLC brochure
Brochure used to market the project.

A kickoff workshop/training session was held at ISTC headquarters in Champaign, IL on September 17, 2015. This session provided an overview of the GLC, presentations on relevant tools and programs, and a group discussion of barriers and opportunities related to food waste prevention and reduction in K-12 schools. A free school food service training session was also presented by Greg Christian, Founder and CEO of Beyond Green Partners, a food service and consulting company focused on the nutritional and environmental impacts of school food. The presentations and training were videotaped to enable schools unable to attend, or which learned of the GLC after the kickoff, to benefit from the information shared. Presenters in addition to Greg Christian of Beyond Green Partners included: Joy Scrogum, ISTC; Susan Vescovi, US EPA Region 5; Kelly Boeger, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Housing Dining Services, and Raj Karmani, Zero Percent. Throughout the project period (for the US EPA grant), TAP hosted webinars for participants on subjects such as food donation for schools, USDA’s “Smarter Lunchrooms” concepts and food waste reduction, commercial composting services available to schools, school gardening and on-site composting, and case studies of outreach on food waste prevention and reduction with schools.

Additionally, TAP partnered with the Springfield [IL] Public Schools (SPS) to assess the opportunities for food waste reduction and diversion. This hands-on assessment provided insight into the barriers and opportunities in implementing the activities included in the Green Lunchroom Challenge.

Results: By the time the project funding ceased, 27 IL schools, three IL school districts, and two “other” organizations (an elementary school in New Jersey and the DeKalb County [IL] Health Department) had signed up to participate in the GLC voluntary pledge program (see the archived participant list). Although funding for the project ended in December 2016, TAP continues to share resources via the GLC website blog to assist any institution or organization with on-site foodservice operations with food waste prevention, reduction, and diversion.

Other projects with this client (US EPA):

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Campus Waste Sculpture

Two men sitting in front of waste sculpture
Hursh Hazari (left) was an engineering graduate student at the time this project was implemented. Nahid Akram (right) was a graduate student in architecture.

Project Title: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Campus Waste Sculpture

Sector: Higher Education
Location: Champaign-Urbana, IL 
Service: Stakeholder Engagement 

Background: The second phase of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Waste Characterization Studies also involved a public engagement aspect funded by the University’s Student Sustainability Committee. 

Approach: ISTC staff members worked with a pair of graduate students to design and build a sculpture made from waste materials taken from the University’s waste stream. Plastic beverage bottles were gleaned from the sorting line at the University Waste Transfer Station and from recycling collections at various sites around campus. The bottles were cleaned, sanitized, and fitted into a mesh framework to form “bottle blankets,” which were then attached to a wooden skeleton in the shape of the “Block I.”

Design, cleaning, and fabrication took place at the ISTC building on campus. The resulting 7″ x 7″ x 7″ sculpture was dismantled, transported to the Krannert Center for Performing Arts (KCPA), and re-assembled in the lobby of KCPA, where it was displayed along with information on the waste characterization project–including the composition of the waste stream revealed by the study–as well as information on waste generation in the United States and reduction tips, how quickly the number of bottles within the sculpture would enter the US waste stream at that time, and other relative impacts. The sculpture debuted at the 2016 Sonified Sustainability Festival and remained on display throughout Earth Week.

People assembling a sculpture made from beverage bottles and wood
ISTC’s Joy Scrogum (crouching, lower left) and graduate students Hursh Hazari (standing, center) and Nahid Akram (seated, right) assemble the sculpture at KCPA.

A fact sheet about opportunities to reduce and recycle waste on campus in the broader Champaign-Urbana community was created in conjunction with the sculpture and make available on the ISTC website for download (via QR code displayed with the sculpture). Upon dismantling, the bottles from the sculpture were returned to the University Waste Transfer Station for proper recycling and framework materials were distributed to other campus units for reuse (e.g. wood was reused by the Facilities & Services carpentry shop, plastic mesh was used to protect plants as part of campus prairie restoration plantings, etc.). 


Waste sculpture on display at Krannert Center for Performing Arts
Completed sculpture on display at Krannert Center for Performing Arts.

Other projects with this client:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Campus Waste Characterization Studies

Image of UIUC Quad

Project Title: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Campus Waste Characterization Studies

Sector: Higher Education
Location: Champaign-Urbana, IL 
Service: Waste Characterization Study  

Background:  The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) Technical Assistance Program (TAP) was contracted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to conduct a campus-wide waste characterization study and pilot new waste stream diversions.

Additionally, TAP piloted four targeted zero waste efforts for campus: plan and execute a zero-waste football game; deploy a campus-wide nitrile glove recycling program; design and monitor on-the-go recycling bins for the main quad; and collect real-time fill data using commercially available sensors to gauge route efficiencies and recycling rates.  See the link below for “Other projects with this client” to learn more about those related projects.

Approach:  The two-phase project involved sampling eight buildings, including two residence halls, one academic building with laboratories, one academic building without laboratories, an administrative building, the student union, a bookstore, and a mixed-use event building. Each building was also audited for availability and location of refuse and recycling bins. Subsequently, employees and students that occupied these buildings were surveyed, to gauge knowledge of current programs, gaps in service, and overall satisfaction with the campus recycling program. With this data, TAP created both waste reduction and diversion plans for the individual buildings, as well as campus-wide recommendations.  

The second phase of this project also involved a public engagement aspect funded by the University’s Student Sustainability Committee. TAP staff members worked with a pair of graduate students to design and build a sculpture made from waste materials taken from the University’s waste stream. See the link to a description of that project below under “Results.” 


Other projects with this client:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Zero Waste Football Game

A volunteer stationed by bins to help game attendees sort waste properly.

Project Title: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Zero Waste Football Game

Sector: Higher Education
Location: Champaign-Urbana, IL 
Services: Implementation Assistance, Stakeholder Engagement, Fostering Sustainable Behavior

Background: In Fall 2014, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign participated in the Gameday Recycling Challenge for the first time. The Gameday Recycling Challenge is a friendly competition for colleges and universities to promote waste reduction at their home football games. The Challenge occurred on October 25th for the homecoming football game against the University of Minnesota. During the game, efforts were implemented to reduce waste by composting and recycling. At the end of the game, all the waste streams were sorted and weighed, and the results were tabulated. Result categories included waste minimization, diversion rate, greenhouse gas reduction, recycling, and organics reduction. Each participating game’s data is used to rank and determine the Challenge winners. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign achieved a diversion rate of 60% by improving source separation of compostable and recyclable materials. The University will use this year’s diversion rate as a baseline to improve efforts going forward in upcoming years. 

Marching Illini form recycling symbol
The Marching Illini incorporated the recycling symbol into their halftime show.

Approach: ISTC led a multi-department collaboration to identify and deploy collection stations for composting and recycling across Memorial Stadium. ISTC also lead the effort to recruit and manage over 150 volunteers to guide fans on recycling practices. Additionally, ISTC worked with concessionaires and caterers to ensure that most of the service was either recyclable or compostable.

Scoreboard image at Memorial Stadium
Fans in the Block I used cards to form the recycling symbol.

Results: The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign achieved a diversion rate of 60% by improving source separation of compostable and recyclable materials during this event. Among the Big 10 Conference schools participating in the Challenge that year, UIUC placed third in the “recycling” category and second in the “organics” category.

Other projects with this client: