Another Way to Recycle EPS: Dart Container Offers Foam Recycling Drop-off

Expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam, designated by the #6 resin code and commonly referred to by a brand name “Styrofoam” (much the same way facial tissues and bandages have become synonymous with one brand), is one of those materials that gives consumers who like to recycle fits. Many recycling programs don’t accept it. That’s not because it can’t be recycled; it’s that collecting and transporting the lightweight foam for recycling typically doesn’t make economic sense. You’re talking about shipping something that contains a lot of air when you need to consider fuel and other transportation related costs. It’s only when EPS foam is “densified”–processed to remove the air and reduce the foam’s volume, typically through crushing and compacting–that it becomes a commodity that is economically viable to transport.

 

Those of us who work or study on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus are fortunate to be able to recycle EPS packaging materials thanks to the campus Styrecycle program. Our campus partnered with the local recycler, Community Resource Incorporated (CRI), to purchase a densifier to transform all the foam coolers from labs and packing peanuts and cushioning from shipments received by departments into dense blocks to be sent off for use in new products.  ISTC is one of the collection points for this program

 

Hooray for having some of the EPS in our community diverted from the landfill! But, what about foam from non-university, residential sources? What about foam cups and other food packaging, which are not accepted even as part of Styrecycle on campus, but widely used by restaurants and retailers throughout the area?

 

Thankfully, Dart Container Corporation, which has a plant in Urbana, operates foam recycling programs throughout the US, and has recently added the Urbana location to its list of drop-off centers. Read the full announcement about the Urbana drop-off (along with new drop-offs in OK and ID) at https://www.dartcontainer.com/media/4099/final_new-drop-off-release_tradepubs.pdf. The Urbana drop-off, at 1505 East Main Street, is publicly accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and accepts “a wide variety of recyclable foam including foam cups, foam egg cartons, foam meat trays, foam ice chests, and foam packaging which is frequently used to protect fragile materials like TVs during shipping.” The foam can be recycled into products like “picture frames, baseboards, and crown molding.” Interested residents should collect their foam in clear or translucent bags, rinse or wipe foodservice containers to remove food or drink residue, and be sure to remove contaminants like straws, tape, or other non-foam materials.

 

Note that Dart does NOT accept foam packaging peanuts.  The campus Styrecycle program does accept them from campus sources, but cautions that individuals be sure to distinguish those from cornstarch-based peanuts, which dissolve in water and are NOT accepted through Styrecycle. Residents of the Champaign-Urbana area that wish to recycle those can take them to the UPS stores in town or Mail & Parcel Plus (see Urbana’s “Where Do I Recycle It?” guide for addresses). Of course, you can always save some of them for reuse in packages you plan to send as well.

 

There are Dart foam recycling drop-offs in Chicago and suburbs as well, for UI staff and students based at UIC or those who return to the Chicago area during intersessions. Type in a location at https://www.dartcontainer.com/environment/ps-foam-recycling/ to find the nearest option.

 

art container logo

 

 

Adding Metrics to your Illinois Sustainability Award Application

graphs and charts with a magnifying glass over the charts to look at metrics and data closerAdding metrics to your Illinois Sustainability Award application allows evaluators to truly see the quantitative or qualitative impacts that your organization, program or technology have achieved. Plus, metrics are important for your own use—to tell your story to stakeholders, to evaluate next steps in your sustainability efforts, and to determine the effectiveness of what you’ve done thus far.

 

Without an understanding of resource use before starting a project, how can you truly understand its impact on your bottom line and resource reduction? A major key to understanding project or program impact is to create a baseline for your project, program or initiative. By creating a baseline, you are creating a road map to tracking the success of an initiative and seeing what resource use looks like before implementing a new program, technology, initiative, or strategy. This is important to tracking the success of your efforts and can even help when asking for more money or resources for future environmental projects or initiatives.

 

There are many different types of tools and calculators that can be used to help create an annual baseline, such as ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager (tracks energy, water, and waste). However, entering use data in a simple Excel spreadsheet can also yield a baseline. Important resources to baseline in your organization or business are energy and water use, waste, chemical use, and purchasing. If you have a fleet, fuel use might also be a good metric to track.

 

Before you start your project, choose an evaluation timeline – how long are you going to track metrics to see if your project was successful? What information would you need to collect? Remember to keep it simple and hone in on exactly which metrics will show reduction in resource use. Throughout the duration of the project, continue to track those metrics, even after the initiative or project has been implemented. Then, take time to analyze the data and see if a change has been made in the resources used.

 

Metrics don’t always need to be quantitative – especially if you are tracking impact of outreach or effect of a program on a particular group of people. Data such as number of people reached with information, or number of people participating in the program can be valuable as well. If you’re working with a group of people, get testimonials on impact of the program in their organization or everyday life. Ask whether the initiative, project or program will, or has already, affected their future success, or if connections outside of the project, program or initiative were made that otherwise would not have occurred.

 

The Sample Application section of the ISTC website can give you an idea of how to enter in data and metrics into our metrics spreadsheet and talk to your team about what per-unit measures you might use in your application. If you have further questions, contact Deb Jacobson or Irene Zlevor for more information via e-mail (at djacobso@illinois.edu or izlevor@illinois.edu) or by phone (630) 472-5016.

 

Remember, applications are due May 4. Start your application now!

 

State Electronics Challenge Recognizes Illinois Sustainable Technology Center as a 2016 Gold Award Winner

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) has received a Gold Award for its achievements in the State Electronics Challenge–a comprehensive nationwide environmental sustainability initiative that currently reaches more than 223,000 employees in 39 states. ISTC was recognized for its accomplishments in green purchasing, energy conservation, and responsible recycling of electronic office equipment in 2016.

 

“The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center is truly an outstanding example of a commitment to environmental leadership,” commented Lynn Rubinstein, State Electronics Challenge Program Manager. “This is the third year in a row that ISTC has earned a Gold Award.” She added that “ISTC is one of only 17 organizations nationally being recognized this year and the only one in Illinois.”

 

“We’re really pleased to have received this recognition, and value our participation in this program,” said Joy Scrogum, ISTC Sustainability Specialist and coordinator for its Sustainable Electronics Initiative and Illini Gadget Garage projects. “The guidance and resources available through the State Electronics Challenge (SEC) were very helpful in creating ISTC’s policy on purchasing, use, and disposal of IT equipment. They also create a useful framework for discussing operational changes in terms of these lifecycle phases for electronics with ISTC’s own technical assistance clients. Even though public entities and non-profits are the types of organizations which may participate in the SEC, I often refer other types of organizations to the Program Requirements Checklist for a simple guide to best practices.”

 

As a result of its environmental initiatives, in 2016 ISTC saved enough energy to power 42 households per year, avoided greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing 68 cars from the road per year, as well as avoiding the generation of 37 pounds of hazardous waste.

 

The State Electronics Challenge offers its participants annual opportunities to document their achievements and receive recognition for those accomplishments.  In 2016, the reported actions of 31 participants in green purchasing of electronic office equipment, power management, and responsible reuse and recycling:

  • Prevented the release of almost 219,198 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. This reduction in greenhouse gases is equivalent to the annual emissions from 171,006 passenger cars.
  • Saved enough energy to supply 13,722 homes per year
  • Avoided the disposal of hazardous waste equivalent to the weight of 2,120 refrigerators
  • Avoided the disposal of solid waste – garbage – equivalent to the amount generated by 1,007 households/year.

A full list of winners and their environmental accomplishments can be found on the State Electronics Challenge website (www.stateelectronicschallenge.net).

 

“The State Electronics Challenge provides state, tribal, regional and local agencies, as well as schools, colleges and universities and non-profit organizations with a great opportunity to integrate concepts of sustainability and waste reduction into their operations,” added Ms. Rubinstein.  “It’s inspiring to see programs such as this one developed and implemented at ISTC to ensure that the highest environmental practices are met through the lifecycle of office equipment.”

 

The State Electronics Challenge awards were made possible through donations from Samsung and the R2/RIOS Program.

 

About the State Electronics Challenge

The State Electronics Challenge assists state, regional, tribal, and local governments to reduce the environmental impact of their office equipment.  It annually recognizes the accomplishments of Partner organizations. The Challenge is administered by the Northeast Recycling Council (www.nerc.org). Currently, 167 state, tribal, regional, colleges, schools, universities, and local government agencies, and non-profit organizations, representing more than 223,000 employees, have joined the SEC as Partners.  For more information on the SEC, including a list of current Partner organizations, visit www.stateelectronicschallenge.net.

 

About the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC)

As a division of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) helps organizations and citizens implement sustainable solutions to environmental and economic challenges. ISTC’s mission is to encourage and assist citizens, businesses, and government agencies to prevent pollution, conserve natural resources, and reduce waste to protect human health and the environment of Illinois and beyond. ISTC integrates applied research, technical assistance, and information services to advance efforts on a wide variety of sustainability issues and promote sustainable economic development.
photo of SEC plaque made of circuit boards

Registration Open for Champaign Co. Electronics Recycling Event

Event details

Champaign County has scheduled a free county electronics collection event for Saturday, May 20, 2017 from 8 AM to noon at Parkland College. Sixteen local governments are participating in the May 2017 event: Bondville, Broadlands, Champaign, Gifford, Homer, Ivesdale, Ludlow, Mahomet, Ogden, Royal, Sadorus, St. Joseph, Savoy, Thomasboro, Urbana, & Unincorporated Champaign County. (Communities NOT participating include: Allerton, Fisher, Foosland, Longview, Pesotum, Philo, Rantoul, Sidney, & Tolono.) A list of accepted and non-accepted items is available at http://champaignil.gov/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Flyer-of-accepted-items-for-5-20-17-event.pdf.  There will be a 2 TV limit for participants; all sizes, types, & models of TVs will be accepted. There will be a 10-item total limit for participants.

 

Registration is required to participate, and registration is open today. Interested residents of participating communities must sign up for a 15-minute time slot at http://ecycle.simplybook.me/sheduler/manage/event/1/unit/1.

 

Other options

Registration for these collection events has been used in recent years to minimize the long waits in lines that were common in the past. Of course, another great way to avoid the lines is to make use of the many local businesses that accept electronics for recycling year round. These are also good to keep in mind if you can’t make it to the upcoming event. See the Champaign County Electronics Recycling Guide at http://champaignil.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/GUIDE-FOR-RESIDENTS-1-9-17-1.pdf for a list of businesses, items they accept, and contact information (it’s always a good idea to call ahead to ensure that policy has not changed before you make the effort to take items to a location). Be advised, however, that if you have televisions to recycle, the county collection event is your only option for recycling these devices currently. Televisions are one of 17 devices which are banned from landfills in Illinois. See the Illinois EPA web site for further information on the landfill ban: http://www.epa.illinois.gov/topics/waste-management/electronics-recycling/index.

 

If you have an electronic device that still functions, consider donating it for reuse. Reusing items is a “higher order” waste management strategy than recycling, because you’re making the most of the natural and human resources that were already invested in an item’s manufacture. Recycling itself requires energy, labor, etc., so while it’s a better option than sending something to landfill (especially in this instance where law restricts sending certain items to landfill), reuse is an even better option. Check out some suggestions for local organizations that may accept items for donation in our fact sheet on waste reduction and recycling in our community at http://www.istc.illinois.edu/info/library_docs/TN/reducing-recycling-UI-Champaign-Urbana.pdf.  If you have an item that isn’t functioning properly and you’re wiling to try some “do-it-together” troubleshooting and repair to return it to working order for yourself or someone else, check out the Illini Gadget Garage. Our student staff and volunteers are here to help you, and you’ll love the sense of accomplishment you get when you’re able to make your gadget work again!

chasing arrows recycling symbol

 

The Road to a Great Illinois Sustainability Award Application

ground plants like grass and ivery in the shape of a winding path and an image of the gov. sustainability awards plackIf your organization has done a lot in the name of sustainability – from projects that save money and resources to initiatives that strengthen the people and communities you work for – what are you waiting for? The Illinois Sustainability Award provides a great opportunity for you to pull your sustainability work together into a single document: your award application!

 

Because sustainability encompasses the triple bottom line – People, Planet, Profit – it can be tough to wrap one’s brain around all that should be included in your application. Our Apply for the Award page and FAQ’s will help you in that process, but we know that’s a lot to read! Here are three tips to help you cut to the chase, and get started on your application (due May 4).

 

1. Start driving. Get key people on board.

Illinois Sustainability Award applications are typically a team effort, but there is often a single person or small team that drives the process forward. The application drivers can be anyone – from top management to employees who volunteer time on a Green Team. If you’re reading this, you may be the driver!

 

Send a note out to co-workers letting them know you’re preparing an Illinois Sustainability Award application. Here are some key people to get on board early (positions vary by organization):

  • Top Management
  • Facilities/Operations Manager
  • Plant Manager
  • Sustainability Officer/Green Team Lead
  • PR Officer

2. Read these two things. These are your “how to” guides to help you best relay your sustainability successes in your application. Remember, quantifying your actions are just as important as clearly describing them.

 

Narrative Guidelines – You have up to six single-spaced pages to describe your sustainability accomplishments. These guidelines tell you how.

 

Metrics Form Instructions – Download the Metrics Form (Microsoft Excel format) and read the Instructions tab.

 

3. Check out the sample applications.

The sample applications, available on our web site, display best practices from past winners’ applications. Note that a good application typically includes a variety of projects touching on multiple impacts or aspects of sustainability. The project descriptions will also include some detail on how they were conceived and who was involved. We want to hear how your organization went from idea to implementation.

 

4. Check out the Evaluation Criteria

Make sure you’re aware of how your application will be reviewed and include all the points/details from your efforts to address the key attributes we’re seeking. You can find the Evaluation Criteria here: http://www.istc.illinois.edu/info/evaluation.cfm.

 

Even if you are not applying for an Award, you can still be involved at the Awards Ceremony through supporting the event or being an exhibitor. Information on sponsorship levels and benefits can be found on our “Support the Awards” page. We hope you consider supporting this 31-year legacy of environmental excellence!

 

Ready to apply? APPLY NOW!

 

If you still have questions about the process, contact Deb Jacobson or Irene Zlevor for more information via e-mail at djacobso@illinois.edu or izlevor@illinois.edu or by phone (630) 472-5016.

New data paper from GLRPPR: Spotlight on Illinois’ Manufacturing Sector

In 2015, the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR) began a project to analyze data from U.S. EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), Greenhouse Gas Emissions database, and the Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns database to determine the impact of manufacturing on the economy and environment of the six states in U.S. EPA Region 5. GLRPPR’s most recent paper summarizes findings for Illinois’ manufacturing sector (NAICS 311-337).

The full report, The Economic and Environmental Impact of Great Lakes Manufacturing: Snapshot of Emissions, Pollution Prevention Practices, and Economic Impact Using Public Data, is available in IDEALS, the University of Illinois’ institutional repository.

Sustainable Laboratories Keep their Cool with Scientific Rigor

North American Laboratory Freezer Challenge at ISTC

ISTC labs participated in the North American Laboratory Freezer Challenge to improve their sample storage. Right, Susan Barta, analytical chemist, prepares old samples for proper disposal.

 

Laboratories at ISTC ‘got chill’ on March 7 as they got busy with the 2017 North American Laboratory Freezer Challenge.

 

The Challenge promotes sample accessibility, sample integrity, reduced costs, and energy efficiency by recognizing best practices that support science quality and resilience — in addition to minimizing total costs and environmental impacts of sample storage.

 

The competition was a good opportunity to clean out samples that were no longer needed and update organization and logs to improve laboratory access, according to John Scott, senior analytical chemist at the Center.

 

Lance Schideman, research scientist, and John Scott, senior analytical chemist, review chemical stocks

Lance Schideman (left), research scientist, and John Scott, senior analytical chemist, review chemical stocks as part of the Freezer Challenge.

According to Challenge organizers, the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) and My Green Lab, the Centers for Disease Control and the University of California Davis reported that 10-30 percent of items stored in refrigeration units were no longer needed or no longer viable.

 

Scott said the Challenge offers an excellent incentive to review and update stocks of research materials. Especially when a researcher changes jobs, an effort should be made to examine which samples are no longer needed, he said.

 

Major industry sponsors of the Challenge are Stirling Ultracold, ThermoFisher Scientific, and Panasonic. Participants earn points for their activities and winners will be announced in October.

 

Laurel Dodgen and Viktoriya Yurkiv review lab stores

Postdoctoral research assistant Laurel Dodgen and assistant research chemist Viktoriya Yurkiv help with the Challenge.

Focus on Food Waste: Federal Bill Could Expand Food Donation

In August of 2016, the ISTC blog featured information on an Illinois law geared toward increasing the donation of unused food from schools and other public agencies. That legislation addressed widespread confusion about protection from liability under the federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act (aka the Emerson Act), which went into effect in 1996. Now federal legislation has been introduced to amend the Emerson Act in ways that will also hopefully encourage food donation.

 

In February US Representatives Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), and James P. McGovern (D-MA) introduced HR 952, The Food Donation Act of 2017. The goals of this proposed legislation are to clarify and expand liability protections offered under the Emerson Act to better align with the current food recovery landscape. As outlined on Representative Fudge’s web site, HR 952 would:

  • Designate the USDA as the executive agency in charge of implementing, interpreting, and promoting awareness of the Emerson Act. Congress had never assigned the Emerson Act to a particular federal agency for enforcement.
  • Protect donations made directly from donors to needy individuals. This provision is limited to food service establishments and retail stores, and these entities must comply with food service requirements like training and inspections. This particular update of the Emerson Act is important to ensure the timely use of perishable items. Currently the Emerson Act limits protections to food provided to social service agencies (e.g. food banks or soup kitchens).
  • Amend the Emerson Act to state that donors retain liability protection if the recipient pays a Good Samaritan Reduce Price for food, or the cost of simply handling, administering, and distributing food. This provision would, for example, extend liability protections to non-profit grocery stores that sell surplus food at reduced prices (e.g. Daily Table in Dorchester, MA)
  • Amend the Emerson Act to cover foods that comply or are reconditioned to comply with safety ­related federal, state, and local labeling standards. In this way, donations of food that was mislabeled in a way unrelated to safety would be protected, to help keep such items out of the waste stream.
  • Allow for donation for safe “past-dated” food. In this way items that are beyond a listed “Sell By” date, but which are still perfectly safe to eat, could be covered under liability protections. As noted on the ISTC blog earlier this week, industry is working to change the way it labels food to minimize consumer confusion, and elimination of “sell by” dates that really don’t reflect food safety are part of the proposed changes. But until labeling changes have been widely adopted, this provision could help reduce unnecessary food waste. The text of HR 952 directs that “Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Agriculture shall, in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, issue regulations with respect to the safety and safety-related labeling standards of apparently wholesome food and an apparently fit grocery product under section 22 of the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 U.S.C. 1791).”

If passed this legislation could provide another important step toward the national goal to reduce food waste by half by the year 2030, in alignment with Target 12.3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

 

For further information, see the press release on HR 952 on Representative Fudge’s web site, updates on the bill (including its text) on Congress.gov, and the Food Donation Act of 2017 fact sheet.

 

Image of the Food Donation Act of 2017 fact sheet

 

Illini Gadget Garage Serves as Drop-off for Single-use Batteries, CDs, and DVDs

The Illini Gadget Garage (IGG), a collaborative electronics repair center on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus, is providing some unique recycling services for the community. First of all, IGG has become a drop-off collection point for single-use batteries, having already filled one of the “iRecycle” 55 lb. capacity battery collection buckets available from Battery Solutions, a R2/RIOS certified recycler. Another collection bucket is on its way, and the IGG crew look forward to receiving a “Confirmation of Reclamation” letter from Battery Solutions, which will confirm receipt of the materials for recycling and indicate the number of pounds of different types of batteries, by chemistry, were present in the collection bucket. Illini Gadget Garage project coordinator Joy Scrogum purchased the collection buckets using funds donated to the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center’s Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI). UI Facilities and Services (F&S) had previously purchased these collection bins for ISTC and other departments on campus, but that arrangement ended when cuts were necessary due to state budget issues. Using SEI donations seemed like a great way to help continue convenient battery recycling for the campus community. (Note that the free Call2Recycle rechargeable battery recycling program is still coordinated by F&S, and the ISTC building at 1 Hazelwood Drive in Champaign is still one of four drop-off locations for rechargeable batteries on campus.)

 

In addition, the IGG is accepting personally-owned CDs, DVDs and their cases. Locally, the IDEA Store has accepted these for resale and reuse in art and educational projects, but knowing that they are frequently inundated with various types of materials, it was decided to try to find an outlet that would recycle these items (in fact CD and DVD cases are currently on the IDEA Store’s “we don’t need more right now” list). At present, not a lot of material in this stream has been collected, but when a fair amount is available, they will be shipped to the CD Recycling Center of America. It should be noted that CDs and DVDs used to store information for University business should NOT be dropped off at the IGG–those should be provided to departmental IT staff for proper data destruction and recycling via the University’s contracted electronics recycler. The IGG collection is for your personally owned but unwanted music, movies, old copies of outdated software, etc.

 

Please also note that the IGG does NOT accept electronic devices for recycling. University-owned electronics should be disposed of via the campus surplus system. UI students, staff, faculty, and other community members should consult the Champaign County Electronics Recycling Guide for a list of local businesses that will accept their personally-owned electronics for recycling.

 

If you’re happy to have these services available through the IGG, consider making a small donation to the SEI Various Donors Fund to support this and other outreach efforts of SEI. The UI Foundation will send you an acknowledgement of your donation for tax purposes.

 

UI departments or units that produce a large amount of waste single-use batteries, may wish to obtain their own battery recycling bucket through Battery Solutions or another company. Battery recycling can earn an office points in the campus Certified Green Office program.

 

Questions about the IGG recycling programs or suggestions for other services you would like to see offered via the IGG can be addressed to illinigadgetgarage@gmail.com.

 

Note that links and mentions of businesses are included for informational purposes only and should not be construed as endorsements by the IGG, associated departments, or the University of Illinois.

chasing arrows recycling symbol

Focus on Food Waste: Changes to Product Labels May Help Reduce Waste

In a previous post (Focus on Food Waste: Product Label Date Dilemma), I wrote about the lack of consistency and clarity surrounding date labels placed on food products, and how the resulting confusion among consumers contributes to foods being thrown out unnecessarily. Consumers often misinterpret labels with “Sell By,” “Best if Used By,” or “Expires on” dates. This factor in food waste generation may be greatly reduced in the near future, thanks to the efforts of two influential food industry organizations.

 

The Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute are advising members to stop using many of these date labels, which typically have much more to do with peak product quality than food safety. Because these organizations collectively include most major food manufacturers and retailers, the impact of this guidance could be significant. They’re asking members to stop using “Sell By” or “Expires on” labels, and use only a “Best if used by” label on most foods to indicate a date beyond which peak quality has passed but food is still safe to eat, or a “Use by” date on products that may genuinely become less safe to eat with age. The groups are encouraging members to begin phasing in this common labeling practice with “widespread adoption urged by the summer of 2018.” This action seems to have been spurred by USDA guidance at the end of 2016, which recommended a universal “Best if Used By” label on food products to minimize consumer confusion.

 

For more information, see the GMA press release, “Grocery Industry Launches New Initiative to Reduce Consumer Confusion on Product Date Labels.” See also “The Dating Game: How Confusing Food Date Labels Lead to Food Waste in America,” a 2013 report from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic which first shown a national spotlight on this issue.

Cover of NRDC "Dating Game" report