Illinois Composting Policy Forum July 11 in Chicago

IFSC Policy forum information


Seven Generations Ahead, the Illinois Environmental Council and the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition (IFSC) invite you to participate in an Illinois Composting Policy Forum on July 11, 2016 from 1 to 3 PM at the Ralph H. Metcalfe Federal Building in Chicago, IL. This will be the first in a series of four forums exploring the potential policy solutions proposed in IFSC’s 2015 report, Food Scrap Composting Challenges and Solutions in Illinois.


The forum will provide updates on the composting policy and infrastructure work of the IFSC and the Illinois Environmental Council. Attendees will learn about states that have a Universal Recycling Law and the impact of these laws, and will participate in a deep dive discussion of the impact such a law would have in Illinois.


Register online at this link. Funding for this free forum is provided by the Searle Funds of the Chicago Community Trust.


For questions about this forum, please contact

Drugs vs. Sharps Disposal: A safety issue


colored unlabeled pills spilling from an amber pill bottleMany people are now aware that they shouldn’t flush unwanted drugs down the toilet because those chemicals end up in waterways and pollute the environment. So what is the correct way to dispose of unwanted medicine?


unwanted drug disposal bin inside lobby of police station in Champaign ILThe U.S. EPA recommends that unwanted drugs including prescriptions, over-the-counter, and pet medicines be disposed of though a one-day or permanent take-back program. These take-back programs are typically at local police stations or pharmacies. If and only if it is absolutely not feasible to take the unwanted drugs to a collection site, then the medicines should be mixed with kitty litter or coffee grounds, sealed in a water proof container, and placed in the trash. These safe disposal methods also reduce incidences of accidental poisonings in children, elderly, and pets and reduce drug abuse.



sharps: needles, syringes, injection pens, etc...While the majority of drugs are taken by pill, some require injection which leaves behind needles and syringes, called sharps. Sharps have special disposal requirements because once they have touched a person’s blood they are then considered biohazardous materials and can be vectors for the spread of certain diseases. Because of this risk, sharps are not allowed in household recycling bins or in the take-back program bins or at household hazardous waste collection sites. Residents are allowed to place sharps in ridged plastic containers sealed with duct tape with the words “do not recycle” on the outside and then place the containers into the trash. But this method is not the safest for the environment or for landfill employees. The best method recommended by the U.S. EPA is to find a sharps collection site (typically at hospitals) or use a mail-back program.


certified sharps disposal containersOnce the drugs and sharps are collected by their designated collectors, they are securely transported to a special medical incinerator that is designed to handle these types of waste streams with specialized equipment to prevent environmental pollution.


More Reading

Zero Waste in Champaign County Illinois

Are you spring cleaning? Do you have old motor oil? What about all that craft supplies you never got around to making anything with? The Champaign-Urbana area offers more than just standard curbside recycling options. So don’t wait for the one day collections, many places take household hazardous waste and unwanted medicines year-round. Check out the wide selection of options for all your unwanted consumer items on the City of Urbana’s web page: “Where Do I Recycle It?” or on City of Champaign’s web page: “Where Do I Recycle It?” You can learn more about recycling in Illinois via the Illinois EPA’s 2010 report: “Waste and Recycling in Illinois: Illinois communities cope with waste in different ways” and their webpage: “Waste Management.”


Have a business and want to start a zero waste program?

Learn more about how ISTC’s team of professionals might help your organization approach zero waste by visiting our website to view our recent success stories. Then, sign up for a free site visit. There is no obligation on your part to work with us beyond the free initial visit, and that first conversation may reveal opportunities to achieve greater sustainability within your organization.


Have questions? Contact us at


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Illinois Teachers Prepare for Lessons on Impact of Drugs in Environment

Proper disposal of unwanted prescription drugs and other common chemicals is important because of their ability to alter living things when introduced into lakes and streams.

Proper disposal of unwanted prescription drugs and other common chemicals is important because of their ability to alter living things when introduced into lakes and streams.

School teachers from across Illinois attended a workshop at the Illinois Sustainable technology Center June 15-16 to help them develop curricula about the risks of improper disposal of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) and the impacts of these emerging contaminants on the environment.


The training was conducted with the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program as part of a grant by the University of Illinois Extension to help raise awareness about the importance of proper disposal of unwanted prescription drugs and other common chemicals because of their ability to alter living things when introduced into lakes and streams.


According to Rebecca Wattleworth, a veteran teacher at Decatur’s Warrensburg-Latham High School, students and their families will benefit from these messages in their science classes. “When they come into my classroom they often do not realize the impact they have on the environment with their everyday activities,” she said. “They think when they throw it away, litter, etc. (that) it is just gone. Out of sight, out of mind.”


Wattleworth said she enrolled in the PPCP teacher workshop so she is prepared to show her students that their actions have consequences. “I want my students to learn that their everyday activities will have an impact in some way on the environment and that they need to be making better/safer choices for both the environment and us!”


Geoffrey Freymuth, a science teacher at Jefferson Middle School in Champaign, is attending the workshop to develop activities for his science enrichment class, as well as for the school’s student Green Team. “It has been my experience that students can have a great impact on the behaviors of their families and their habits,” he said. “I would like my students to be able to set up and design a local campaign on the issue or even find a way to test/evaluate local waters etc.,” he added.


Joni White, a science instructor at Urbana High School said “As an environmental science teacher, I am well aware that this is an often overlooked problem that seriously impacts the environment. I am eager to learn more about what is being done about it so that I can communicate its importance to my students.” She added “From a personal perspective, I am also a veterinarian and well aware of the medical field issue of pharmaceuticals ending up in the water supply.”


In an experiment designed for teachers to use in their classrooms, the workshop participants measured the effect of increasing concentrations of common PPCPs on growth of lettuce sprouts. The compounds used were Aspirin, road salt, and Epsom salt.

In an experiment designed for teachers to use in their classrooms, the workshop participants measured the effect of increasing concentrations of common PPCPs on growth of lettuce sprouts. The compounds used were Aspirin, road salt (MgCl2), and Epsom salt (MgSO4).

Each year, unwanted medications account for accidental poisonings and drug abuse and for environmental problems. The workshops will help this information about PPCPs become a part of each school’s curriculum, according to Nancy Holm, ISTC assistant director. “There are a number of sources of PPCPs to the environment but reducing as much improper disposal as possible is a step in the right direction.”


Recent studies reflect the growing concern about how these compounds enter the aquatic environment and their effects on wildlife.


  • Salmon in Puget Sound (Seattle) were found to be contaminated with antidepressants, pain killers, anti-inflammatants, fungicides, antiseptics, anticoagulants, and antibiotics. A total of 81 PPCP chemicals from nicotine and caffeine to OxyContin and cocaine.



  • Research by ISTC was among the first to confirm that the common antiseptic, Triclosan, was causing antibiotic resistance among bacteria in lakes and streams.


“This is a threat to public health and also the health of our ecosystems that every family has a direct role in preventing,” Holm added. “By providing this information to teachers they can then present this information to hundreds of students each year who can work to spread the word in their communities.”


New technical report: Improving Household Hazardous Waste Collection Options for East Central Illinois

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center’s latest technical report, Improving Household Hazardous Waste Collection Options for East Central Illinois, assesses the current state of household hazardous waste (HHW) collection activity in Illinois and reviews the options in Champaign County as of January 2013.


It summarizes applicable federal and state regulations, best management practices related to HHW collection, and challenges associated with HHW collection in Champaign County. It also compares the costs of one-day collection events in Illinois and the costs associated with start-up, operation, and processing of permanent HHW collection facilities. Finally, it includes a preliminary “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats” (SWOT) assessment for three potential options for Champaign County.

Spotlight on U.S. EPA Region 5’s Food Manufacturing and Processing Industry

In 2015, the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR) began a project to analyze public data sets to determine the impact of manufacturing on the economy and environment of the six states in U.S. EPA Region 5. The goal of this project was to use the analyzed results to assist pollution prevention technical assistance programs (P2 TAPs) with targeting their assistance efforts.


This paper summarizes preliminary findings related to the food manufacturing and processing industry (NAICS code 311).


GLRPPR is a member of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx) national network of pollution prevention information centers and is hosted by ISTC.

Illini Gadget Garage Summer 2016 Hours and Volunteer Opportunities

The Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI), a project of ISTC, is pleased to announce that the collaborative electronics repair center, the Illini Gadget Garage, will be open over the summer to assist “test pilots” with troubleshooting and repair for your small electronics and appliances with electronic components. Open hours for the summer are:


  • Tuesdays 11 AM – 2 PM
  • Wednesdays 5 PM – 8 PM
  • Fridays 12 PM – 3 PM


The Illini Gadget Garage is housed within the Illinois Natural History Survey Storage Building #3 (SB3); see this Google Map for directions.


Since SB3 is not yet ADA compliant, the space is open only so student staff and volunteers can work with “test pilots” –those who do not require accommodations for accessibility–so that they can gain experience with working with members of the public on troubleshooting and repair. If you require accommodation and would like to work with the Gadget Garage to repair a device, please email staff at to arrange for an appointment in another accessible public space.


We will also be hosting “pop-up clinics” in accessible spaces around campus to better serve the community until our physical location has been renovated for accessibility. Be sure to follow the Gadget Garage on Facebook or Twitter to see announcements of pop-up clinics. If your department, RSO, or residence hall would like to host a pop-up clinic, please fill out our form to indicate your interest.


Whether you’re stopping by SB3 during open hours, or attending a pop-up clinic, you might want to take a few minutes to fill out our diagnostic form. This provides staff with some basic information about your device and the issues you’re experiencing, so they can do a little research ahead of time, hopefully making your one-on-one time more productive.


Whether you’re a student on campus for research or summer classes, or a faculty or staff member that enjoys tinkering, we hope you’ll consider volunteering with us! If you’re interested, fill out our contact form. If you’re technically inclined, your expertise can benefit others in our community! If you’re not at all technically inclined, but interested in sustainability and can help out with social media, networking, writing blogs or resource guides, etc., then you should also consider volunteering. The Gadget Garage is NOT just a project for techies! We want to empower everyone to feel comfortable with maintenance and repair of their devices, and to use and dispose of electronics more responsibly. So join us in this effort!

Tentative Illini Gadget Garage identifying mark

Calling All Parks! Get Your Green On

remain green and carry onISTC loves recycling. Last year our Zero Waste Program turned Forest Preserves of Cook County on to a great opportunity with the Keep America Beautiful / Dr. Pepper Snapple Park Recycling Infrastructure Grants. It was a nice boost to a Chicago parks program that had already made sustainability a high art form.


Keep America Beautiful is offering the grants again to parks, athletic fields, nature trails and public beaches. Hurry though! You need to apply by June 10.


Another fabulous KAB opportunty is their Anheuser-Busch Community Restoration Grants Program. When natural disasters affect public areas, this program can assist in restoration.

Charcoal vs. Gas – A Sustainability Question

The age-old American tradition of a backyard barbeque dates back to at least 1672 when John Lederer mentioned “barbecue” in his writings. Over the years there has been secret recipes and perfect techniques that brought about the classic question: Charcoal or Gas? While there are merits to both for taste, evenness of cooking, and cooking time, the bigger question we should be asking these days is: “Which one is more sustainable?”


What you eat

Let’s get one caveat out of the way. What you are grilling has more of an impact on your sustainable grilling event than which grill you are using. Beef has two times or more of an environmental impact than chicken or vegetables. More reading on the true cost of food:



gas grillThe charcoal vs. gas debate isn’t as clear cut as you might think. While it is fairly obvious that charcoal puts out more particulate matter when burning, it also gives off about two times more carbon dioxide emissions than propane gas. Initially then because of those points, I thought gas was more environmentally friendly, but let’s take a step back and look at the whole picture.

Continue reading

Sustainable Memorial Day

Memorial Day


Memorial Day – A day when Americans honor those who have died in military service to the United States of America. Many of us honor the dead by visiting cemeteries, posting a flag, and by having potlucks and grilling celebrations. Let us take the opportunity to honor what those brave Americans fought for by committing to sustainability this Memorial Day. Let’s help to “Keep America Beautiful!”


A few tips for a sustainable Memorial Day:

  1. farmers marketBuy local – Shopping at your local farmers’ market for fresh salad ingredients can significantly reduce your carbon footprint and also reduce the packaging that will end up in the landfill.
  2. Switch to chicken, fish, or veggie burgers – Beef and pork products have two to three times the environmental impact as chicken, fish, and especially veggie burgers because of the greater water, energy, and land resources needed to feed cattle and hogs.
  3. Reusables – This day and age nearly all homes have dishwashers. So this Memorial Day skip the disposables and use reusables to keep your party out of the landfill.
  4. Eco- and Family-friendly activities – gardening with native plants or heading out for a walk/bike ride as a family are some great family-friendly Memorial Day activities that are also eco-friendly.
  5. Pooper Scoopers – It’s fun to get out and play with your pets but if your pet does a number two while out and about, it is best pick it up. Pets poop contains bacteria. While it is not immediately toxic, the combination of thousands of people not picking up poop and rainy weather can cause the bacteria to get into local streams, rivers, lakes, and groundwater aquifers and contaminate them. Case Study: It really did happen! The city of Austin, TX, is home to more than 250,000 dogs. After the start of their “Scoop the Poop” campaign, the city saw a significant decrease in giardia, roundworms, salmonella, and other viruses and parasites in their local waterways, thus improving the environment and conditions for recreational activities.

family fun with dog