ISTC Looks Back, and to the Future During Anniversary
VIDEO 1: Mike Barcelona was a primary architect of the Hazardous Research and Information Center (HWRIC) that would evolve into the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC). He and the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS) Chief Stan Changnon negotiated the political and bureaucratic waters to establish the center. Barcelona, head of the water chemistry group at ISWS was the primary author of the position paper on the organization and goals of the center.
Barcelona went on to serve on the faculties of the University of Michigan and the University of Western Michigan where he served a chair of the department of chemistry.
For his presentation at the 30th anniversary celebration, Barcelona focused on state of things as the Center was being formed. Government and industry had only just begun to define the outlines of hazardous and toxic industrial by-products. At the beginning, the Center was most interested in determining the amounts of hazardous waste in Illinois, and particularly their impacts on groundwater, he recalled. He noted that the state produced an estimated 70 million tons of hazardous wastes between 1920-80.
What has changed today? Barcelona cited a recent Illinois Environmental Protection Agency analysis that showed hazardous waste generation in the state has dropped 75 percent between 1987 and 2013. He also cited an October, 2015 study which estimated that pollution prevention efforts nationwide have avoided the environmental release of five billion to 14 billion pounds of toxins.
While that is a good record for meeting that threat, Barcelona added there are plenty of challenges in the future. In particular, he noted the growing avalanche of electronics in the waste stream, and the increased concern over landfilled food waste and its massive emissions of methane (a potent greenhouse gas).
NEXT UP: David Thomas, founding ISTC director, “ISTC: The Early Years.”