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 theUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Waste Characterization Studies also involved a public engagement aspectfunded 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.
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.).
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.”
Background: The Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP) is the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s roadmap to reducing the campus carbon footprint and achieving carbon neutrality. Since the development of the iCAP, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) Technical Assistance Program (TAP) has worked with UI Facilities and Services (F&S) on multiple projects to facilitate achievement of a 45% campus waste diversion target by 2020, as part of the overarching campus carbon neutrality efforts. See “Other projects with this client” below for further details.
As part of continuous improvement efforts, in the fall of 2014 and spring of 2015 TAP worked with F&S to improve the collection of recyclables on and around the main campus quadrangle, known as “the Quad.”
Approach: Prior to the implementation of this project, separate outdoor recycling bins were not available on the Quad. Rather, receptacle lids indicated trash and recycling should be commingled; materials collected from those commingled bins were subsequently lightly sorted at the University Waste Transfer Station (WTS) for visible aluminum beverage cans and plastic beverage bottles #1 and #2. All other materials collected were sent to the landfill. Off-campus, in the surrounding communities, a wider range of plastics are collected by haulers, so many people coming to campus had a perception that those same materials would be recyclable on campus. This situation, coupled with a lack of dedicated recycling containers on the Quad, led to a high degree of contamination and the resulting loss of recyclable materials to the landfill-bound stream. It also perpetuated long-standing misconceptions among members of the campus community that materials from ANY waste bin on campus were subsequently sorted at the WTS–leading many people to think that placing recyclables in a waste (landfill-bound) container was acceptable, even in areas/buildings where separate collection bins for recyclables were provided. Many people believed that such behavior was “ok,” because recyclables would be captured at the WTS. The reality was that additional hand-sorting at the WTS only occurred for waste collected from certain facilities and spaces, not ALL spaces on campus, and that not all materials deemed “recyclable” in surrounding communities were collected for recycling on campus. Clearly, changes were necessary to the collection infrastructure on the Quad, as a high-traffic area, to begin to break down misconceptions and improper behaviors on campus.
The plan to improve collection efficacy and messaging was to introduce 20 new recycling bins to be paired with existing bins on the Quad, turning 40 stand-alone containers into 30 waste/recycling stations. To achieve this in a cost-effective manner, it was decided to retrofit the existing outdoor, cylindrical concrete waste receptacles from the Quad so that some would be clearly labeled and color-coded for recycling and others for landfill-bound trash. In addition to the expanded bin options, signage would be placed in the buildings surrounding the Quad to launch the new recycling procedures and clarify what materials could be recycled. To measure the impact of this project, waste audits of materials placed in trash containers were conducted before and after the proposed changes, October 2014 and April 2015, respectively.
ISTC worked with F&S to coordinate the sample collection for the waste characterizations. Each trash bin (labeled “Landfill” after receptacle retrofitting) was emptied and was lined with a trash bag for ease of collection. Samples were collected early in the morning to accommodate the regular schedule of the waste collection staff and the bins were relined with a trash bag for the next sample. For the post-implementation audits, the samples were collected from both the designated “landfill” and “recycling” bins. Waste sorting was conducted at ISTC. All samples were sorted into three categories:
Bottles & Cans: Included #1 & #2 plastic bottles and aluminum beverage cans
Recycled in the Community: Included materials recycled by the City of Urbana’s U-Cycle Program
Landfill: Materials that were neither recycled on campus or by the U-Cycle Program
Results: Waste audits revealed the presence of retrofitted separate bin waste/recycling stations resulted in significantly less recyclable material being sent to the landfill, although there was still significant contamination of the designated recycling bins with trash or materials not recyclable on campus. More than 50% of the material in designated recycling bins in the April 2015 audit was trash, approximately 25% was “Bottles & Cans” recyclable on campus, and approximately 22% was material recyclable in the broader community but not on campus. At the time of the post-implementation audit, the bins had only been out on the Quad for about a week. TAP recommended increased education and outreach to help reduce contamination of the recycling stream, as well as improvements in collection routes to reduce trash overflow being placed in designated recycling bins. TAP further recommended that only the recycling stream be sent to the WTS for a secondary sort to reduce the amount of material needing to be sorted and to improve the capture rate for “bottles & cans.” Finally, TAP recommended that the University increase the number of commodities collected for recycling on campus to decrease confusion.
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. TheChallenge occurred on October 25th for the homecoming football game against the University ofMinnesota. During the game, efforts were implemented to reduce waste by composting andrecycling. 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.
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.
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.