The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has announced the availability of a compendium of resources from its “Food Matters” project. The resources are meant to assist municipalities as they tackle various food waste issues.
“The Food Matters Program and Policy Toolkit is designed for city policymakers and agency staff nationwide who are seeking to advance a program or implement policies to prevent food from becoming waste, increase donation of surplus food, and recycle food scraps. Alongside the toolkit is a curated set of guides to tackle food waste at the local level which have proven successful in NRDC’s work with Food Matters cities. The toolkit and templates are designed to meet cities at different stages of their food waste journey, providing users with practical resources to take both incremental steps towards city-wide change as well as bold accelerated strategies.”
Case studies from cities such as Baltimore, Denver, Nashville, and New York are included in the resource compendium.
ISTC’s John Scott was interviewed by Zack Fishman of Medill Reports, an online news service of Northwestern University, for an article about the increase of single-use plastic waste during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Springfield Journal- Register recently ran a story about ISTC’s carbon capture project at City Water, Power, and Light’s Dallman unit 4.
The project was also highlighted by Public Power Magazine, a publication of the American Public Power Association.
The DOE-funded project is currently in the design phase. The phase three proposal, which will fund construction, is due in January. If DOE selects ISTC’s Phase Three proposal, construction would probably begin next May or June, kicking off the five-year project.
by Jeremy Overmann, Chemist & Water Treatment Specialist ISTC Institutional Water Treatment services group
The domestic plumbing systems in any building or part of a building that has been shut down or has experienced reduced use due to COVID-19 policies are at risk for causing disease and death due to the effects of increased water age, including corrosion and growth of bacteria. Before re-opening any such building, take steps to minimize these risks and include consultation with a licensed plumber.
We recommend a higher temperature of at least 142 degrees F as this will kill Legionella bacteria in the heater within 30 minutes. However, do not use water at this temperature for flushing if the building’s drain waste vent (DWV) materials and/or plumbing system components cannot handle this higher temperature.
WARNING: 142 degree F water can cause third degree burns in seconds. Note that Legionella bacteria can continue to grow at temperatures up to 122 degrees F.
The Environmental Science Policy and Research Institute has written a useful guidance document, Reducing Risk to Staff Flushing Buildings, which offers best practices for flushing building water systems in a way that keeps facility staff safe.
Drinking Fountains: If these were shut off and/or not used for a period of time, they should be cleaned according to the manufacturer’s instructions before being used again for drinking.
Chlorine levels: The Illinois EPA requires a minimum of 0.5 parts per million Free Chlorine or 1.0 parts per million Total chlorine (also called Combined chlorine) in drinking water, unless a facility has been given an exemption (this is rare, but applies in some cases to facilities supplied with clean well water).
After re-opening, we recommend maintaining 142 degrees F or higher in all domestic water heaters and storage tanks, and 124 degrees F or higher in all recirculating domestic hot water systems for the purpose of reducing the risk of Legionnaire’s Disease. Note that delivered water at fixtures must meet local and state plumbing codes for maximum safe temperature to prevent scalding. The best way to achieve Legionella risk reduction and anti-scalding is to maintain high temperature in tanks and recirculating systems and employ thermostatic mixing valves just prior to point of use fixtures.
Finally, we recommend documenting all actions you take to prepare facilities for re-opening.
About the Institutional Water Treatment services group
The Institutional Water Treatment (IWT) services group, a unit of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center at the University of Illinois, provides unbiased, professional water treatment advice to facilities equipped with industrial water systems including cooling towers, chillers, boilers, etc. If you need assistance with addressing system start-up due to COVID-19 or other related services, including legionella monitoring, please contact Jeremy Overmann or Mike Springman.
This story originally appeared in the April 2020 Food & Beverage Manufacturing News. This monthly newsletter, focused on sustainability for the food and beverage industry, is a service of ISTC’s Technical Assistance Program (TAP) and is funded through a grant from U.S. EPA. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.
COVID-19 is likely to have a prolonged impact on the health and well-being of residents in the greater Chicago foodshed which includes a 4-state region. A collaboration of local and regional food systems advocates created a matchmaking tool to connect needs and surplus in the Illinois institutional food system. Examples of listings include:
Those with a surplus of meat or vegetables that need a home
Those looking for local food to serve to displaced constituents
Those with a need for extra hands at their facilities (milkers, kitchen staff, drivers)
Those looking for job opportunities after their institution has closed or reduced labor
Those with additional storage space for food that needs to be preserved
In addition, the Wasted Food Action Alliance is conducting a survey [English, Spanish, Arabic] of small- and medium-size farms and for-profit and nonprofit food businesses/organizations impacted by COVID-19. This is not a one-time information-gathering process, but an ongoing effort to respond to challenges that can lead to a more sustainable food system. This is not a research project. You can complete the questionnaire multiple times as new challenges arise. Producers from all over Illinois are encouraged to complete the survey.
The Wasted Food Action Alliance is a diverse set of organizations helping build a unified approach towards reducing wasted food and leveraging it to benefit the state. Its mission is to develop a working strategy and action platform that makes Illinois a leader in reducing wasted food by connecting and building on current wasted food initiatives, education, and policy in unified ways that holistically promote source reduction; food recovery for hunger relief and other uses; and recovery of food scraps for composting and creating healthy soil.
This post was written by Amanda Price and originally appeared on ISTC’s Green Lunchroom Challenge microsite, which features archived resources from a past project focused on food waste prevention and reduction in K-12 schools, as well as periodic posts related to food waste issues and resources for food waste reduction in other sectors, such as health care.
We’re grateful to Amanda for sharing her experiences teaching the new food waste curriculum to Illinois students and thrilled to hear about students inspired to take action. All photos are courtesy of Amanda Price.
Amanda Price piloted the unit in two fifth grade science classes at Butler Elementary and Sandburg Elementary February-March 2020. Both schools are located in Springfield, IL. Amanda works as a Graduate Public Service Intern (GPSI) in the offices of Environmental Education and Community Relations at Illinois EPA. The GPSI program places University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) graduate students in state agency internships in for the duration of their studies. Amanda will earn a master’s degree in Environmental Sciences this May 2020. She taught the unit as part of her capstone graduate project.
The food waste unit follows the NGSS investigative storyline model that is driven by student questions. It teaches students the importance of food waste reduction, landfill diversion, and composting as part of a circular food system. Students create “landfills in a jar” with materials given to them with the goal of protecting the sand, or “groundwater,” at the bottom of the jar. Students also create “compost in a jar” using fresh food scraps and other compostable materials. Students monitor their jars throughout the unit and record scientific data such as temperature and mass. They learn how bacteria act as decomposers. The unit also incorporates map-reading and asks students to think critically about the pros and cons of choosing space for new landfill construction.
The main hands-on activity in the unit is a food waste audit, which can be performed at various scales. Students use data from the audit to calculate the estimated food wasted per person, during the school year, etc. Students end the unit by creating a community awareness or action plan to inform their community or advocate for change. A few students at Butler Elementary wrote a letter to the principal asking him to install a clock in the cafeteria so students could track how much time they had to eat. The principal took swift action and ordered the clock.
Illinois EPA looks forward to sharing the free curriculum with both formal and informal educators around the state. The unit helps increase students’ environmental awareness and stewardship and is best paired with action to reduce waste in the school.
Editor’s note: Many businesses are closed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and some building managers have shut off water and air conditioning to conserve resources. Unfortunately, warmth and lack of clean water flow can contribute to the growth of potentially dangerous microbes, including the bacteria that contribute to Legionnaires’ disease. Illinois Sustainable Technology Center chemist and industrial water treatment specialist Jeremy Overmann spoke with News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates about the problem and potential solutions.
What are the potential sources of tainted water in an unoccupied building?
When a building is unoccupied, water stagnates in the building’s plumbing systems and the disinfectant (chlorination) dissipates. Bacteria can then multiply and form biofilms on the internal surfaces. Without regular use of water, the temperature in these systems may rise or fall into the range in which Legionella bacteria can grow. As a result, the hot and cold tap water systems – including storage tanks, ice machines, drinking fountains and water softeners – can become unsafe. Other potential sources of Legionella include sprinkler systems, decorative fountains, hot tubs, eyewash stations, safety showers, humidifiers and idle cooling towers.
How might these sources expose or infect returning workers?
If water containing Legionella is released from any of these systems in a manner that produces aerosol, mist or droplets, these can be inhaled and cause a serious, sometimes fatal pneumonia. Another route of exposure, though less likely, is aspirating contaminated water into the lungs while drinking. The symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease are the same as some of those from COVID-19 and could result in a misdiagnosis. Legionella does not cause harm when ingested, however other pathogenic bacteria might be present, which can cause infection by this route and even by skin contact.
What can building managers do now to minimize or eliminate the threat?
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers has written a standard that establishes minimum legionellosis risk management requirements for buildings with complex water systems. Standard 188-2018 directs building managers to assemble a water management team and write a water management program for the facility. If the facility has a WMP, managers should review it and meet remotely with the water management team.
The WMP should include protocols for maintaining safe water systems in unoccupied buildings. If none exist, the team might be able to develop them. Generally, hot and cold plumbing systems – including water softeners, equipment, storage tanks and all fixtures – need to be thoroughly flushed a minimum of once per week to remove stagnant water and replace it with water containing an adequate level of chlorination.
A water softener may be regenerated as an alternative to flushing. Drinking fountains should either be flushed regularly or shut off completely from the water supply. If they are shut off, the fountains must be cleaned according to the manufacturer’s instructions before being used again for drinking.
Ice machines should be disconnected from the water supply and stored according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Decorative fountains and hot tubs should be turned off, drained and stored dry. The same goes for humidifiers and cooling towers, if they are not needed. If still needed for cooling, the tower water circulating pump should be kept on continuously, water should be continually bled from the tower, and adequate biocides should be applied regularly to maintain control of biological growth.
What should water system operators do if they have already left their facilities idle for weeks?
Operators should consult the facility’s water management program, as it should contain protocols for start-up of water systems after shut-down or a period of nonuse. The water systems will likely need to be flushed, cleaned, disinfected and recommissioned. After being remediated, they should be tested to verify the safety of the water and the presence of adequate disinfectant.
Who can facility managers call on for advice, inspection or treatment of their tainted systems?
I recommend hiring a reputable water management consultant with experience remediating these types of systems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a guidance document containing relevant information for building water systems that is available on its website.
Just in time for the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, the Wasted Food Action Alliance is pleased to announce the release of the Food Waste Reduction Toolkit for Illinois Schools. Though schools throughout the state are currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this toolkit will allow districts and food service staff members to make plans for food waste reduction efforts when schools are able to welcome back students and staff in person.
The Wasted Food Action Alliance is a diverse set of organizations helping build a unified approach towards reducing wasted food and leveraging it to benefit our region. Its mission is to develop a working strategy and action platform that makes Illinois a leader in reducing wasted food by connecting and building on current wasted food initiatives, education, and policy in unified ways that holistically promote source reduction; food recovery for hunger relief and other uses; and recovery of food scraps for composting and creating healthy soil.
Joy Scrogum, a member of ISTC’s Technical Assistance Program (TAP), is part of the Wasted Food Action Alliance subcommittee which developed the school food waste reduction toolkit. Joy coordinated ISTC’s Green Lunchroom Challenge project, and continues to work on food waste prevention and reduction through TAP’s work with clients, the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition, and related local and regional projects. The Wasted Food Action Alliance school toolkit subcommittee was lead by Seven Generations Ahead.
What’s the problem with food waste in schools?
Over 7 billion school meals are served each year in the United States. Much of this food, however, is currently feeding landfills instead of nourishing students. This is while one in six children is food insecure. When food is landfilled, not only are its nutrients lost, so are all the energy, water, and labor that went into producing, transporting, and preparing it. K-12 schools have a unique role in teaching students to value food instead of wasting it.
The Food Waste Reduction Toolkit for Illinois Schools can help.
The Toolkit is a comprehensive resource that provides all schools, no matter their size or location, the tools to tackle the issue of wasted food. It identifies the main sources of wasted food and offers strategies for food waste prevention, recovery and redistribution, composting, education and engagement, and celebrating success. A variety of solutions are shared–from easy and quick to implement to longer term and more resource intensive.
The Toolkit’s easy to use format allows you to jump in to find the strategies that work for your school. Each section includes case studies that highlight inspirational efforts to reduce food waste in schools across Illinois and provides guidance on:
Measuring food waste
Waste audit guides
How to determine what to audit in your lunchroom and kitchen
Food waste tracking in kitchens
Analyzing waste audit data
Preventing food waste
Sourcing food from school gardens and local farms to encourage consumption of healthy foods
Menu planning and food preparation
Preventing food waste at the serving line, including Offer versus Serve
Recovering and redistributing surplus food
Policies and laws regarding share tables and the redistribution of food (including the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act that supports the donation of recovered food)
How to set up and operate a share table
Redistribution of surplus food within a school
Donation of surplus food to an outside organization or in-school food pantry
Composting food scraps
The environmental benefits of composting
Offsite commercial composting
How to get started composting in your lunchroom
Educating and engaging the school community
Hands-on classroom or service learning projects
Curricula and lessons about food and food waste
Teaching tools and resources
Communicating and celebrating success
Communications within school community
Communications with the wider community
Get recognized with programs such as Green Ribbon Schools and the U.S. Food Waste Challenge
The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) Technical Assistance Program (TAP) at the University of Illinois makes companies and communities more competitive and resilient with sustainable business practices, technologies, and solutions. TAP works at the intersection of industry, science and government to help clients achieve profitable, sustainable results.
In service to the State of Illinois, ISTC provides all Illinois organizations, businesses, manufacturing facilities, institutions and governments the opportunity for one free site visit and sustainability assessment from TAP. However, in light of the Governor’s stay-at-home order and restrictions on non-essential travel for University personnel as we face the COVID-19 pandemic, TAP staff members are currently not conducting in-person site visits.
But this does not mean that we are not still here to serve you. Our staff members are working remotely, and are available to help your business or community with:
Answers to questions related to waste reduction, water and energy efficiency and conservation
You can also keep up to date on TAP projects and services, case studies, and guidance by subscribing to the ISTC blog (look for the “subscribe” box for email input on the main blog page) or exploring the blog’s Technical Assistance category. Our web site also provides a list of fact sheets, case studies and other publications which may provide inspiration for your efforts. In the coming months, TAP will also be developing a new web site to more fully describe recent projects, successes, and services; this will be linked to directly from the main ISTC web site. Be on the lookout for it!