TAP seeks partner for USDA composting and food waste reduction pilot program grant

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production (OUAIP) recently released a funding opportunity announcement for their Composting and Food Waste Reduction (CFWR) cooperative agreements. Applications are due by September 1, 2022.

This program provides financial assistance to municipalities, school districts, counties, local governments, or tribal governments (State-designated Indian Tribes, Federally Recognized Indian Tribal Governments) for composting and food waste reduction pilot programs. While applicants are encouraged to submit proposals that meet more than one of the objectives below (inclusion of multiple objectives will be considered when ranking proposals), OUAIP will accept proposals that address at least one of the following:

  • Generate compost
  • Increase access to compost for agricultural producers
  • Reduce reliance on, and limit the use of, fertilizer
  • Improve soil quality
  • Encourage waste management and permaculture business development
  • Increase rainwater absorption
  • Reduce municipal food waste; and
  • Divert residential and commercial food waste from landfills.

In addition to meeting one or more of the above purposes applicants are encouraged to align their project proposals to address priorities on environmental justice, racial equity, climate, investment in disadvantaged communities, and climate smart agricultural practices. Priority will be given for each of the following elements that are included in a project:

  • Anticipate or demonstrate economic benefits for the targeted community;
  • Incorporate plans to make compost easily accessible to agricultural producers, including community gardeners, school gardens, and producers;
  • Integrate food waste reduction strategies, including innovative food recovery efforts such as, but not limited to, food gleaning, storage, and preservation techniques; and
  • Include a robust plan that describes collaboration with multiple partners.

Eligible entities should collaborate with two or more partner organizations on their CFWR pilot project. Non-eligible entities may be partners on a project.

ISTC seeks an eligible organization to be the lead applicant on a collaborative proposal. ISTC’s TAP staff will provide support on the cooperative agreement through zero waste technical assistance, education, and outreach. Contact TAP to learn more about this partnership opportunity.

Illinois Farm to Food Bank Feasibility Study report now available online

Cover page of Farm to Food Bank report

As reported in previous posts, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center Technical Assistance Program (TAP) has been collaborating with Feeding Illinois, the Illinois Farm Bureau, the Illinois Specialty Growers Association, and other stakeholders to explore ways to reduce food waste from farms while also recovering nutritious fresh foods to increase the state’s food supply and help citizens facing food insecurity.

Recently, project partners released the initial feasibility study report from the first year of this project, entitled “Exploring the Development of an Illinois Farm to Food Bank Program.” The report is available in IDEALS, the Illinois Digital Environment for Access to Learning and Scholarship, at http://hdl.handle.net/2142/114171.

Through interviews, surveys, focus groups, and pilot projects it became clear that a Farm to Food Bank program would be welcomed by both the farming and food banking communities in Illinois. Such programs are defined in the Code of Federal Regulations [at 7 CFR 251.10(j)] as “the harvesting, processing, packaging, or transportation of unharvested, unprocessed, or unpackaged commodities donated by agricultural producers, processors, or distributors for use by Emergency Feeding Organizations (EFOs)” – i.e., hunger relief agencies. Several such programs exist throughout the United States, though not in every state (for examples, see the “Lessons from Other Farm to Food Bank Programs” section of this report). While commonly referred to as Farm to Food Bank, these programs can also operate as Farm to Food Pantry programs.

While this is an ongoing research project, this report serves to demonstrate research efforts undertaken from December 2020 – February 2022 that have led to this conclusion along with identifying strengths, weaknesses, threats, opportunities, and recommendations for a statewide Farm to Food Bank program.

Recommendations for 2022 and beyond include the following:

Three essential aspects of a farm to food bank program1. A Farm to Food Bank program should have three primary goals:
➢ Support farmers by providing a secondary market for off-grade and  surplus products.
➢ Increase access to local, nutritious foods.
➢ Reduce food waste/surplus on farms and associated energy and resources.

2. Equity must be an essential part of the program.
3. Seek out partnerships with existing aggregation and processing centers.
4. Seek out partnerships with new food pantries.
5. Make Feeding Illinois and their member food banks a staple at ag-focused and food access events.
6. Increase communication between food banks.
7. Ensure buy-in from food banks and food pantries.
8. Improve capacity and resources at the food pantries.
9. Connect a Farm to Food Bank program with existing
technology platforms.
10. Diversify funding sources. Develop an advocacy plan to pursue public and private support.
11. Establish an advisory board to guide the actions of the Farm to Food Bank program.
12. Develop guidance and educational programs for farmers.
13. Measure success by more than just pounds of donated food.
14. Hire a dedicated employee to manage the Farm to Food Bank program.
15. Adapt the program as needed.
16. Continue piloting Farm to Food Bank strategies around the state.

While these recommendations can serve to guide Farm to Food Bank efforts, further research is needed to uncover opportunities and test collection and distribution strategies. ISTC and Feeding Illinois will collaborate to continue this research for the remainder of 2022 into 2023. The project team will continue outreach and engagement efforts to both increase participation and gather feedback on the program. They will also continue to work with Rendleman Orchards, which participated in the first pilot project of the study, as well as conducting additional pilot projects. In the coming year, ISTC and Feeding Illinois will also work with farmers markets around the state to test aggregation strategies.

Read more about this project on the “Project Descriptions” section of the TAP website.

 

 

Free sustainability assessments for Illinois manufacturers: video available

Screenshot from TAP assessment opportunity webinar
This webinar recording is available on YouTube.

Members of the ISTC Technical Assistance Program team recently presented a webinar in association with Sustain Rockford to describe an opportunity for Illinois manufacturers, their direct suppliers, and supporting industries to obtain free sustainability assessments. The webinar recording is now available on ISTC’s YouTube channel.

TAP has received federal grant funding to provide these assessments for the following sectors:

Assessments can help facilities reduce business costs, energy and water consumption, wastewater generation, emissions, and hazardous material usage, which can result in increased profitability, productivity, and competitiveness as well as recycling or diversion of by-products.

The recorded presentation describes: how interested facilities can sign up for the opportunity; the process of preparing for an assessment; what to expect from the report on findings provided by TAP (including some example elements and common opportunities identified); and how TAP can assist with implementation of recommendations, if desired.

View a flyer describing the assessment opportunity. For additional information, please email Irene Zlevor or call 217-300-8617.

 

 

Illinois EPA announces notice of funding opportunity for county solid waste planning

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) Director John J. Kim recently announced a new funding to assist counties and other units of local government in implementing their solid waste planning obligations under the Illinois Solid Waste Planning and Recycling Act (SWPRA). This funding opportunity follows a recommendation from the Statewide Materials Management Advisory committee that recommended, in its July 2021 report, that the Illinois EPA provide financial support to units of local government to enable them to make meaningful updates to their statutorily required solid waste management plans. A Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) has been posted to the Illinois EPA website.

Under the Solid Waste Planning and Recycling Act, counties and units of local government are obligated to revisit their Illinois Solid Waste Management Plans every five years and, if necessary, submit plans with significant updates to the Illinois EPA, said Director Kim. These grants provide an important resource to county and local governments as they update these plans for managing solid waste disposal and recycling.”

The Illinois EPA Waste Reduction and Compliance Section is responsible for reviewing county solid waste management plans submitted pursuant to the SWPRA. Through this funding opportunity, Illinois EPA intends to provide interested counties, and other units of local government required to develop a county solid waste management plan, financial assistance to help prepare the next plan update.

Eligible projects include, but are not limited to:

  • Conducting a local solid waste and materials management needs assessment;
  • Surveying local solid waste and materials management stakeholders to determine programmatic expansion viability;
  • Internally authoring solid waste management plan updates; or
  • Procuring consulting services to prepare solid waste management plan updates.

The Illinois EPA Waste Reduction and Compliance Section (WRCS) is responsible for reviewing County Solid Waste Management Plans submitted pursuant to the SWPRA.

Each county or unit of local government required to develop a solid waste management plan is eligible for $5,000.00 of funding. Applications must be submitted electronically to epa.recycling@illinois.gov and are due by 5:00 PM (CST) on May 31, 2022. Applicants may not apply for a grant until they are prequalified through the Grant Accountability and Transparency Act (GATA) Grantee portal.

May 1-7, 2022 is International Compost Awareness Week

2022 International Compost Awareness Week poster

Did you know that the first full week of May is celebrated annually in the US and other countries as International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW)? Composting is a way of recycling organic materials (e.g. grass clippings and other yard waste, as well as food scraps) to create a nutrient-rich soil amendment. Things that have grown break down and support the health of soil and thus new growth–that’s the idea behind the theme of this year’s ICAW: Recipe for Regeneration: Compost.

May 1-7, 2022 has also been declared Compost Awareness Week in Illinois, thanks to the recent adoption of SR0706 by the 102nd Illinois General Assembly. See https://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocTypeID=SR&DocNum=706&GAID=16&SessionID=110&LegID=137663 for the full text of the resolution and related information.

The Illinois Food Scrap Coalition (IFSC), a not-for-profit organization that advances diversion and composting of organics in Illinois through advocacy, program implementation, market and business development, policy, and outreach, has lined up a variety of events to celebrate ICAW. The following are highlights of IFSC’s ICAW events, beginning Sunday, May 1 at 9 AM:

Sunday, May 1, 9 – 11 AM, The Mike Nowak Radio ShowLearn how composting and using finished compost regenerate Illinois soil to grow nutritious food with friends from the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County and the Vernon Hills Park District’s Community Garden.

Sundays, May 1 and 8, 1 – 4 PM, Wednesday, May 4, 5 – 7 PM, Collective Resource Compost Gift-BackPay just $5 per 5 gallons of finished compost at The Talking Farm in Skokie. Separate registration requested.

Monday, May 2, 12 PM, IFSC’s kick-off program (virual event) – “What’s cookin’ with IFSC, the US Composting Council (USCC) and ICAW.” Details here.

Monday, May 2, 12:30 – 1:30 PM, Vermont Organics Recycling SummitJoin IFSC at the Vermont Organics Recycling Summit and listen to Keynote Speaker Finian Makepeace of the Kiss the Ground Project. Separate registration required.

Tuesday, May 3, 7 PM, Illinois Farmer Expert Panel (virtual event) – Hear farmers describe their farm, crops, operations, and compost use. Details here.

Thursday, May 5, 7 PM, On-Farm Tours (virtual event) – Learn the benefits of regenerative agriculture and composting via prerecorded farm tours. Details here.

To learn more about the benefits of composting, see https://illinoiscomposts.org/why-compost/. To learn how to start composting, see https://illinoiscomposts.org/start-composting/.

Technology to absorb CO₂ at power plants is promising

ISTC engineer Paul Nielsen stands beside the biphasic solvent system at the Abbott Power Plant.
ISTC engineer Paul Nielsen stands beside the biphasic solvent system at the Abbott Power Plant.

Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) researchers have given the thumbs up to an innovative biphasic solvent system for its efficiency and effectiveness in absorbing CO₂ from flue gas in a coal-fired power plant at the University of Illinois (U of I).

With $3.4 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory, an ISTC team sought to validate the various advantages of a biphasic CO₂ absorption process (BiCAP) at a 40-kilowatt electric small pilot scale at the Abbott Power Plant on the U of I campus. The system was designed based on the testing results at the laboratory scale under a previous DOE cooperative agreement.

Previous laboratory testing has proved the biphasic solvent-based process concept and has shown that the technique can achieve greater than 90 percent capture efficiency and greater than 95 percent CO₂ purity and has the potential to significantly increase energy efficiency and reduce  CO₂ capture cost.

From the recent field testing, the team verified that their technology could achieve 95 percent efficiency in CO₂ capture, compared with 90 percent in conventional methods, with a 40 percent higher energy efficiency. The cost advantages have not yet been determined, but previous laboratory testing showed a 26 percent cost reduction. The system has also been shown to run continuously for two weeks, verifying that it can operate under Midwest winter weather conditions.

“The conventional CO₂ capture process has several disadvantages, and our goal was to reduce the carbon footprint and costs and increase the energy efficiency,” said Yongqi Lu, principal investigator. “These energy-efficiency advantages of the BiCAP system, coupled with reduced equipment sizes when scaled up for commercial systems, will lead to reductions in both capital and operating expenses.”

The BiCAP method uses biphasic solvent blends that can form and develop dual-liquid phases during CO₂ absorption. The solvents, which were tested and selected in previous DOE-funded studies, are highly resistant to degrading from either high temperatures or oxidative atmospheres. Also, less solvent is required for this process.

Although the focus of the study was on CO₂ capture from flue gas at coal-fired power plants, the BiCAP technology can be used in natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) plants as well, incorporating flue gas from natural gas, biomass, plastics, and other renewable materials.

“The exciting feature of this capture technology is its robust nature and ability to be used on a variety of flue gas sources. We are now ready for commercial partners to assist in moving this technology to the marketplace,” said Kevin OBrien, co-principal investigator for the project and director of ISTC.

Preliminary tests with synthetic NGCC flue gas made of air and bottled CO2 gas have been performed on the small pilot unit recently. Results revealed that a 95 percent CO2 removal rate could be achieved, and the energy use only slightly increased compared with that for the coal flue gas that contains more concentrated CO2.

The concept of biphasic solvents was developed as part of a dissertation research project in 2013–2015. From 2015 through 2018, screening of biphasic solvents and studies of proof of the BiCAP process concept were conducted at the laboratory scale with funding from DOE. After that, the small pilot system was designed, constructed, and tested at the Abbott Power Plant with continued DOE support.

The main research team for this project was transferred from the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) to ISTC in January 2022. Now that the team has collected the data, the next steps are to complete a techno-economic analysis, then scale-up the technology for commercial use.

Media contact: Yongqi Lu, 217-244-4985, yongqilu@illinois.edu or
news@prairie.illinois.edu

This story first appeared on the Prairie Research Institute News Blog. Read the original story.

ISTC researchers invited to present at 16th Greenhouse Gas Control Technologies Conference

Several ISTC researchers recently had abstracts accepted for the 16th Greenhouse Gas Control Technologies Conference (GHGT16), to be held October 23-27, 2022 in Lyon, France.

GHGT is the principal international conference for greenhouse gas mitigation technologies and focuses on carbon capture, utilization, and storage.

The abstracts accepted for the conference are:

  • “Compressed CO2 Energy Storage on CO2 Transport Pipelines” (presentation/corresponding author: Sebastiano Giardinella)
  • “Full-scale FEED Study for Retrofitting the Prairie State Generating Station with an 816 MWe Capture Plant using Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Engineering Post-Combustion CO2 Capture Technology” (presentation/corresponding author: Jason Dietsch)
  • “FEED Study for Retrofitting Holcim US Cement Facility with CO2 Capture Plant Using Air Liquide Adsorption Assisted Cryogenic Technology” (presentation/corresponding author: Hafiz Salih)
  • “Progress Update Large Pilot Testing of Linde-BASF Advanced Post-Combustion Capture Technology at City Water, Light, and Power ” (presentation/corresponding author: Stephanie Brownstein)
  • “Direct Air Capture-Based Carbon Dioxide Removal with United States Low-Carbon Energy and Sinks AOI 2: Initial Engineering Design of Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage Systems (TRL 6) for Direct Air Capture” (poster/corresponding author: Jason Dietsch)
  • “Parametric Testing and Evaluation of a Novel Biphasic Absorption Process for Post-Combustion Carbon Capture” (presentation/corresponding author: Yongqi Lu)
  • 21st Century Power Plant: Front-End Engineering Design Study for Hybrid Gas Turbine and Ultra-Supercritical (USC) Coal Boiler Concept (HGCC) Plant with Post Combustion Carbon Capture and Energy Storage System at City, Water, Light and Power Plant (CWLP) (corresponding author: Les Gioja)

Read more about ISTC’s energy research.

Debra Jacobson recognized by Industrial Water, Waste & Sewage Group (IWWSG)

Debra JacobsonThe Industrial Water, Waste & Sewage Group (IWWSG) has named Debra Jacobson the 2022 recipient of the E. Ted Erickson Distinguished Environmental Professional Award.

Ms. Jacobson joins a notable list of 24 past recipients, which is named in honor of founder E. Ted Erickson.  The group established the award in 2000 to recognize an individual who has made a significant contribution(s) in the environmental area, especially at the local and regional levels.

The award is granted based on recognition of the recipient’s community service advancing IWWSG’s goals, leadership / service to environmental professional organizations, including the IWWSG, and contributions to the field of environmental laws / compliance / management / education.

Ms. Jacobson is Associate Director at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), a unit of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois. She oversees the Technical Assistance Program, the Illinois Coastal Management Program team, and the Institutional Water Treatment unit. She also works as an environmental engineer overseeing technical, environmental and safety compliance assistance to organizations, including industrial facilities, within and outside Illinois. Ms. Jacobson collaborates with federal, state and local government agencies and industry trade groups on environmental matters including energy efficiency, zero waste and emerging environmental impacts, such as end of life renewable energy equipment.

Microplastics on the move: Research projects detect microplastics in water and on land

Microplastics

The mind-boggling amount of microplastics in the environment is becoming a greater concern as early studies suggest serious health effects from human exposure to the plastic particles. Taking these effects seriously, the United Nations recently endorsed a historic resolution to end global plastic pollution, including microplastics.

At the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), researcher John Scott is studying microplastics in landfills, rural streams, and city drinking water to further understand where they are coming from and how they move in the environment.

Illinois landfills and microplastics

Since about 80 percent of all plastic waste is destined for landfills, they are a logical place to look for microplastics. Landfills that use plastic liners underneath the waste piles routinely pump out leachate, the waste “soup” that has drained into the liners. The leachate is sent to wastewater treatment plants, which are not designed to handle plastic waste.

As a result, plastic entering water treatment plants can end up either in the treated wastewater, where it is ultimately discharged to rivers or lakes, or in the sludge, called biosolids. Scott’s team has found that 99 percent of microplastics are in the biosolids, which are typically applied to agricultural lands as fertilizer. This means that microplastics taken from landfills are released back into the environment.

In this project, the researchers hypothesized that landfill leachate is the most significant source of microplastics taken to wastewater treatment plants. They compared the contribution of microplastics in leachate with other potential sources.

Although the study is still ongoing, the significance of this finding is that, although it is not feasible to treat the enormous amount of wastewater that comes into a treatment plant every day, treating the smaller amount of leachate may be an option.

“If our hypothesis is correct, then addressing plastic pollution in landfill leachate may be a more efficient and cost-effective way to reduce its environmental loading,” Scott said. “It’s better to treat the waste further upstream.”

The project has been funded by the Illinois Hazardous Research Fund.

Rural Iowa streams

ISTC is partnering with the University of Iowa and the U.S. Geological Survey in the first statewide assessment of microplastics and co-contaminants in rural Iowa streams. Most research studies to date have focused on microplastics in ocean habitats. In contrast, the research team sampled stream water, fish tissues, and rural sediments for this study. They also examined the samples for other contaminants, such as herbicides and insecticides, pharmaceuticals, and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Some of the sediment samples have the highest concentrations of microplastics that they’ve ever seen, said Scott. With the methodology they designed in 2020, they can detect microplastics as small as 20 micrometers, while other researchers are limited to 100-micrometer sizes.

More microplastics appeared in the soil sediments than in the streams and fish tissues.

“Some of the concentrations of microplastics we found in samples were astronomical,” Scott said. “If concentrations for other contaminants approached that percentage level in the soil, it would raise an alarm. Microplastics may not be as toxic as other contaminants, but when there is this much stuff loading into out sediments, the concentrations will get worse over time.”

These findings support the theory that most of the microplastics that go to the wastewater treatment plants end up in biosolids and are released into soils in agricultural areas.

One objective of the study is to investigate the relationship of microplastics to sediments and other contaminants, such as PFAS. Microplastics can harbor exotic bacteria that are much different from that in the surrounding environment. Previous studies have shown that contaminants concentrate on these materials at hundreds of times the background levels.

In addition, studies have shown that microplastics as small as 20 micrometers can be taken up by plants.

“We don’t know if microplastics affect agricultural land, but if we load enough into our soils, it’s going to have some adverse effects, like trying to grow plants in plastic,” Scott said.

St. Louis city and county drinking water  

In a new three-year project, ISTC researchers’ role will be to investigate micro- and nano-plastics and other contaminants in surface waters, water treatment plants, and in tap water samples from residential households in St. Louis. Nanoplastics are particles that are even smaller than microplastics and are not visible to the naked eye or even under a simple optical microscope.

It is known that surface waters contain microplastics, but less is known about water distribution systems in the home and from water treatment facilities. Scott plans to trace microplastics found at water supply plants back to water distribution systems to determine if water softeners, dishwashers, and household plumbing can also be sources of microplastics.

Scott said he doesn’t expect to find microplastics originating from these sources, implying that in terms of microplastics, tap water is safer than bottled water, which contains large amounts of the plastic specks.

These efforts will be part of a larger project to determine an impact baseline for those contaminants in St. Louis city and county water systems, to survey community members to obtain their perceptions of drinking water quality, and to provide hot-spot mapping and policy recommendations for clean water investments and regulations.

Findings from the project will be provided to local water utility companies to begin to address micro- and nanoplastics in city water systems. Project partners also hope to promote equitable investments in clean water infrastructure.

The project is funded by the Missouri Foundation for Health. ISTC’s partners are Mixte Communications, Waterkeeper Alliance, and LH Consulting.

Because roadways are suspected to be another major contributor to microplastics pollution, Scott will soon begin another project, this one focused on microplastics in Michigan lakes that are highly affected by road salt.

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Media contact: John Scott, 217-333-8407, zhewang@illinois.edu
news@prairie.illinois.edu


This story originally appeared on the Prairie Research Institute News Blog. Read the original story.