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 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 https://www2.illinois.gov/epa/topics/waste-management/materials-management/Documents/MMAC_Report_Approved_7_1.pdf.

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): https://tap.istc.illinois.edu/category/illinois-environmental-protection-agency-epa/

Forest Preserve District of Cook County Clean Energy Framework

cover of FPDCC Clean Energy Framework document

Project Title: Forest Preserve District of Cook County Clean Energy Framework

Sector: Parks and Recreation
Location:
Forest Preserves of Cook County, Illinois
Services:
Resilient Solutions (Climate Resiliency), Sustainability Planning, Fostering Sustainable Behavior, Implementation Assistance

Background: ISTC’s Technical Assistance Program (TAP) and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County (Forest Preserves) have a history of working together to improve sustainability. In 2014, the Forest Preserves, a public agency responsible for protecting and preserving nearly 70,000 acres of natural areas and public open space, engaged TAP to evaluate the current state of materials management operations, assess opportunities for improvement, and take steps toward making the Forest Preserves a national leader, among similar organizations, in waste reduction practices. The success of that project led the Forest Preserves to engage TAP to assist in developing and implementing their Sustainability and Climate Resiliency Plan, which was released in September 2018. That plan hinged upon an overall goal to reduce the Forest Preserves’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% by 2050 from a 2016 baseline. It also identified a road map for Forest Preserve lands to be resilient in a changing climate, recognizing that such conditions will significantly impact land management operations as the range and distribution of species shift, along with the availability of water and other key aspects of the local ecosystem.

On January 22, 2019, in response to a United Nations International Panel on Climate Change report, which demonstrated that the consequences of man-made climate change will become irreversible in 12 years if global carbon emissions are not immediately and dramatically reduced, the Forest Preserves of Cook County Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted a Net Zero Resolution. This resolution revised the 80% GHG emissions reduction goal to net-zero by 2050, as well as reducing facility GHG emissions by 45% by 2030 and committing to the development of a renewable energy plan. 

TAP is currently working with the Forest Preserves on updating their Sustainability & Climate Resiliency Plan accordingly, while simultaneously assisting with the implementation of previously identified objectives and strategies to achieve their ambitious GHG reduction goals.

Approach: Beginning in 2020, TAP worked with various stakeholders, both internal to the Forest Preserves and external, to assist in the development of a Clean Energy Framework for the Preserves.

With regard to external stakeholders, TAP reviewed the efforts of other local government entities with renewable energy goals. To orient the Forest Preserve’s efforts with existing and emerging national trends, TAP analyzed the renewable energy goals, policies and progress in municipalities and counties across the country. In particular, TAP focused on communities included on the Ready for 100 list compiled by the Sierra Club, comprised of over 160 cities, counties, and states across the U.S. that have goals to power their communities with 100% clean, renewable energy. Those cities and counties with a target year of 2025-2036 for their renewable energy goals were exclusively targeted as the experiences of these entities might be expected to be analogous to that of the Forest Preserves as they work to attain their goal of 100% renewable electricity by 2030. A brief online survey was developed, and an email was sent to the identified contacts at peer communities with a link to the survey, asking them to provide answers as a means of helping ISTC to learn about their successes, challenges, approaches to implementation, and any other relevant information which they would like to share. Emerging themes from responses were compiled, summarized, and used in the development of the Clean Energy Framework.

The Framework itself is modeled after the Cook County Clean Energy Plan. The Forest Preserves of Cook County Clean Energy Framework documents existing conditions through a needs assessment and review of current initiatives. Further, it prioritizes renewable energy technologies and strategies which the Forest Preserves might employ and creates a roadmap to achieving the Forest Preserves’ 2030 and 2050 goals. A Net Zero Emissions implementation schedule is presented, and the relationships between the Clean Energy Framework objectives and the objectives of the broader Sustainability & Climate Resiliency Plan are outlined.

Within the Framework it is noted that to actualize the goals and strategies outlined, energy conservation and efficiency of the many existing facilities must be prioritized and continuously pursued to reduce the existing operational footprint of the Forest Preserves. On a parallel course, the concept of green building must be thoroughly explored, redefined, and codified to embody building operations, ecosystem services, and renewable energy generation, fully encompassing the Preserves’ values of environmental stewardship and fostering human well-being in any building upgrade or new building project. Simultaneously, the Forest Preserves must aggressively pursue vetting, selecting and ongoing implementation of on-site renewable energy systems, coupled with collaborative pursuit, in partnership with Cook County, of a large-scale renewable energy installation, and sourcing of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to account for any emissions balances.

Principal authors of the Framework include Anthony D. Tindall, Policy & Sustainability Manager of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, along with April Janssen Mahajan, Joy Scrogum, Savannah Feher, and Shantanu Pai of TAP. Jennifer Martin of TAP was also among the advisors for the report.

Results: The Clean Energy Framework was finalized in May 2021 and adopted by the Forest Preserves’ Board of Commissioners in June 2021.

Other projects with this client: https://tap.istc.illinois.edu/category/forest-preserve-district-of-cook-county/

Forest Preserve District of Cook County Sustainability & Climate Resiliency Plan

FPDCC sustainability and climate resiliency plan cover

Project Title: Forest Preserve District of Cook County Sustainability & Climate Resiliency Plan 

Sector: Parks and Recreation
Location: Forest Preserves of Cook County, Illinois
Services: Resilient Solutions (Climate Resiliency), Sustainability Planning, Fostering Sustainable Behavior, Implementation Assistance

Background: In 2014 the Forest Preserve District of Cook County (Forest Preserves), a public agency responsible for protecting and preserving nearly 70,000 acres of natural areas and public open space, engaged ISTC’s Technical Assistance Program (TAP) to evaluate the current state of materials management operations, assess opportunities for improvement, and take steps toward making the Forest Preserves a national leader, among similar organizations, in waste reduction practices. The success of that project led the Forest Preserves to engage TAP to assist in developing and implementing their Sustainability and Climate Resiliency Plan. 

Approach: The process of developing this Plan, nine months in the making, included an internal and external review of past sustainability efforts, focus groups and engagement sessions across the operations within the Forest Preserves and Cook County government, and numerous topic-specific meetings. Priorities outlined in the plan, and their underlining strategies, reflect the Forest Preserves’ direction for a sustainable future.  

This Plan is based on the vision, described in the Forest Preserves’ Next Century Conservation Plan, of being a leader in sustainable practices. As an important part of their founding mission to protect and preserve our public lands and waters, the Forest Preserves of Cook County commit to using sustainable and low-impact practices in operations and challenge ourselves to consistently perform all our functions in the most environmentally responsible ways. 

Results: Published in September 2018, the plan hinges upon an overall goal to reduce the Forest Preserves’ greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 from a 2016 baseline. It also identifies a road map for Forest Preserve lands to be resilient in a changing climate, recognizing that such conditions will significantly impact land management operations as the range and distribution of species shift, along with the availability of water and other key aspects of the local ecosystem.

The plan is divided into five priority areas: 

Utilities & Emissions 

  • Focus areas include GHG emissions measuring, reporting and reductions; green infrastructure integration; and water use tracking and efficiency 
  • Major objectives include reducing energy consumption by 4.5 percent annually and developing green building and site standards for future projects 

Preserve Operations 

  • Focus areas include transportation and waste and recycling 
  • Major objectives include reducing fuel usage by 4.5 percent annually and expanding the recycling program to all Forest Preserve facilities 

Learning & Engagement 

  • Focus areas include awareness and visibility, community engagement, and employee engagement 
  • Major objectives include promoting green practices with permit holders and enhancing Earth Day sustainability programming 

Ecological Sustainability 

  • Focus areas include natural resources management and practices 
  • Major objectives include establishing Mitigating Impacts to Nature Policy as well as a Native Seed Policy outreach plan 

Implementation & Advancement 

  • Focus areas include green purchasing 
  • Major objectives include establishing a Green Purchasing Policy, establishing and promoting a plastic reduction campaign, and increasing energy rebates and incentives with utilities 

The full 2018 plan with complete objectives and targets, is available at http://hdl.handle.net/2142/101837.  

On January 22, 2019, in response to a United Nations International Panel on Climate Change report, which demonstrated that the consequences of man-made climate change will become irreversible in 12 years if global carbon emissions are not immediately and dramatically reduced, the Forest Preserves of Cook County Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted a Net Zero Resolution. This resolution revises the 80% GHG emissions reduction goal to net-zero by 2050, as well as reducing facility GHG emissions by 45% by 2030 and committing to the development of a renewable energy plan. 

TAP is currently working with the Forest Preserves on plan implementation. This in part includes identifying the most advantageous renewable energy strategies, guiding evaluation of equipment in nearly 300 facilities for energy efficiency upgrades, developing a means to track emissions reduction efforts and progress, and updating the Sustainability and Climate Resiliency Plan accordingly. 

To help accomplish their GHG reduction goals, TAP worked with the Forest Preserves to develop a Clean Energy Framework, which was adopted by the Forest Preserves of Cook County Board of Commissioners in June 2021.   

 Other projects with this client: https://tap.istc.illinois.edu/category/forest-preserve-district-of-cook-county/ 

Forest Preserve District of Cook County Recycling and Waste Reduction Opportunity Assessment

Image of park

 

Project title: Forest Preserve District of Cook County Recycling and Waste Reduction Opportunity Assessment

Sector: Parks and Recreation
Location: Forest Preserves of Cook County, Illinois
Services: Fostering Sustainable Behavior, Waste Characterization

Background: In 2014, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County engaged the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) Technical Assistance Program (TAP) to help understand the current state of materials management operations, assess opportunities for improvement, and take steps toward making the District a national leader in waste reduction practices.

Approach: TAP conducted a characterization of landfill-bound material collected from District properties. Waste samples were collected from the annual Pow Wow at Busse Woods (~5000 attendees), other smaller permitted events at Labagh Woods (900 participants), and a district-operated hauling truck, which collected landfill-bound material from various locations. A total of 831 pounds of waste was sorted, into 23 material categories, over a three-day sampling period. Alongside the waste characterization study findings, ISTC gathered information and observations about the materials management system at the District, for the purpose of proposing ambitious but achievable changes to District operations.

sorting at Maywood Garage
ISTC team at Maywood Garage Facility, sorting the waste sample from Busse Woods (Pow Wow).

Results: Key findings and observations about the District’s landfill-bound waste stream included:

  • Approximately 67% (1191 tons/year) of the District waste stream was currently recyclable or compostable in the Chicago area at the time of the waste audit.
  • Recyclables represented 28% (501 tons/year) of the waste stream. “Recyclables” included glass, plastic, and aluminum beverage containers, tinned food cans, non-foodservice paper, corrugated cardboard, and other plastic containers.
  • Compostables represented 39% (690 tons/year) of the waste stream. “Compostables” included food scraps, paper towels, food-soiled paper, other paper foodservice ware, paper cups, and liquids.
  • Expanded Polystyrene (EPS or “Styrofoam”) represented 4% (71 tons/year) of the waste stream, by weight. Most of the EPS found in District waste is food-soiled, meaning it was not recyclable in the Chicago area.
  • The remaining third (33%, 593 tons/year) of the waste included materials that cannot be recycled or composted in the Chicago area. This included film plastic, trash bags, and composite materials. “Composite” materials were defines as those made of multiple material types which are difficult to separate for recycling. For example, a coffee pouch or juice box is made of layers of material that, put together, make it difficult to recycle.

TAP presented the District with multiple disposal cost avoidance scenarios. Using the findings from the waste characterization, TAP made recommendations for operational improvements in two areas:

  • Collection improvement: Related to the collection of recyclable items across District properties, and involving increased availability of collection bins, while controlling contamination of recyclables. Food scrap collection (composting) was an option for further increasing landfill diversion.
  • Permitted event improvement: Related to large events such as the Annual Chicago Pow Wow and regular permitted group events such as company picnics and birthday parties. This involved potential permitting standards to encourage Forest Preserve guests to use reusable or recyclable items and arrange for proper collection of source-separated waste.

Potential funding opportunities to support the implementation of the recommendations were also presented.

For complete details, see the project report, Recycling and Waste Reduction Opportunity Assessment: Forest Preserve District of Cook County.

Other projects with this client:

https://tap.istc.illinois.edu/category/forest-preserve-district-of-cook-county/

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 https://icap.sustainability.illinois.edu/project/glove-recycling for status updates.

Other projects with this client:

https://tap.istc.illinois.edu/category/university-of-illinois-at-urbana-champaign/

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: https://tap.istc.illinois.edu/category/higher-education/

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Indoor Solid Waste & Recycling Collection Assessment & Infrastructure Improvement

New collection bin station with sections for landfill, mixed paper, and aluminum cans plus bottles
New collection containers being deployed on UI campus.

Project Title: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Indoor Solid Waste & Recycling Collection Assessment & Infrastructure Improvement

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

Background: In 2008, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UI) signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, becoming part of a network of institutions of higher education committed to campus carbon neutrality by the year 2050. UI developed an Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP) as a roadmap to reducing the campus carbon footprint and achieving carbon neutrality. The iCAP identifies relevant goals, objectives, and potential strategies in the following categories: energy conservation and building standards; energy generation, purchasing, and distribution; transportation; water and stormwater; purchasing, waste, and recycling; agriculture, land use, food, and sequestration; carbon offsets; financing; education; outreach; and research.

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 the 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 more information.

In 2019, ISTC and WTS staff began an analysis of collection practices within buildings with the explicit intent to increase the capture of source-separated recyclables.

Approach: TAP staff shadowed building service staff to identify current practices and opportunities for improvement. The processes for handling waste and recyclables for typical academic and residential buildings were mapped out, including movement of waste materials from the building to dumpsters, and ultimately to the WTS. TAP staff also worked with F&S to document (in terms of current deployment and unused inventory) the number and variety of landfill and recyclable collection bins found in buildings across campus.

Examples of the variety in size, color and signage of older collection bins on campus.
Examples of previous generations of bins and associated signage found on campus.

This information allowed TAP to make various recommendations to UI F&S related to:

  • building construction and renovation standards for recycling space allocation;
  • collection container allocation, placement, and related training for Building Service Workers (BSW);
  • updating collection containers to improve clarity and consistency across campus;
  • improved signage for clarity and consistent messaging;
  • use of bin liners and existing dumpsters to streamline material flows to, and separation at, the WTS; and
  • a campus-wide recycling campaign.

Results: TAP is currently working with F&S on implementation of these recommendations. At the end of 2019, new collection containers were identified which would collocate landfill (trash) bins and bins for the two types of recycling streams on campus—mixed paper and aluminum cans plus bottles. The new collection containers use color-coding to distinguish the different streams—black for landfill, green for the mixed paper stream, and blue for the combined aluminum cans and bottles. Matching directional signage featuring pictures of example materials appropriate for each waste stream attaches to the back of the bins to assist with proper source separation. A URL for more information on campus recycling is also prominent on the bin signs. Images on the container access doors (for emptying the bins) reinforce proper placement of materials. The containers are themselves constructed from at least 1000 recycled plastic milk jugs, reinforcing the importance of not only recycling but “closing the loop” by using products made from recycled materials.

105 containers have been deployed over 30 buildings, beginning primarily in first-floor hallways. Additional containers are being obtained and deployed to locations keeping factors such as building occupancy and status of currently existing collection infrastructure in mind. F&S sees the deployment of the new containers as a key factor in raising awareness of recycling opportunities and processes on campus, as well as combating persistent misconceptions about campus recycling practices.

The new collection containers and implementation of other recommendations made by ISTC’s TAP not only foster achievement of campus iCAP goals but also relate to the recently released F&S Strategic Plan 2019-2023, which includes key performance indicators for diverting waste from landfill in its “Lead in Energy Management and Sustainability” section.

Other projects with this client:

https://tap.istc.illinois.edu/category/university-of-illinois-at-urbana-champaign/

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Waste Transfer Station Data Management and Tracking System

Project Title: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Waste Transfer Station Data Management and Tracking System

Sector: Higher Education
Location: Champaign-Urbana, IL
Services: Implementation Assistance, Process Optimization, Resilient Solutions, Waste Characterization/Reduction/Management

Background: Members of the ISTC Technical Assistance Program (TAP) zero waste team were engaged by the University of Illinois Facilities and Services (F&S) to better understand and optimize operations at the waste transfer station located on campus.

Approach: In 2018, TAP worked with F&S staff to digitize collection truck weight tickets and create a new online tracking portal, in collaboration with the University of Illinois Administrative Information Technology Services (AITS), for use by the campus Waste Transfer Station (WTS). The portal, rolled out in December 2018, allows WTS staff to measure, analyze, and report on the material moving through the system. This level of detail can allow targeted modifications to hauling routes, pickup frequency, and collection container deployment to improve capture of specific waste streams, as well as provide data to inform potential outreach efforts and policy changes.

TAP also worked with Loadman Systems to pilot real-time truck scale collection systems, with the ultimate goal of truck route optimization.

Results: As of summer 2021, the project has led to reducing a whole garbage truck from the fleet and increasing operational efficiency by over 40%.

Other projects with this client: https://tap.istc.illinois.edu/category/university-of-illinois-at-urbana-champaign/

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 https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/wasted-2017-report.pdf for more recent statistics. See https://hungerandhealth.feedingamerica.org/understand-food-insecurity/ 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 https://green-lunchroom.istc.illinois.edu/k-12-schools/suggested-activites/. 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 Lunchroooms” 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):

https://tap.istc.illinois.edu/category/us-environmental-protection-agency-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.). 

Results:

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:

https://tap.istc.illinois.edu/category/university-of-illinois-at-urbana-champaign/