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

 

 

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

 

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

Illini Gadget Garage Spring 2017 Open Hours, Pop-up Clinics

The Illini Gadget Garage, a collaborative repair center on the UI campus where students, staff, faculty, and community members can receive assistance with troubleshooting and repair of their personally owned electronics and small appliances with electronic components, has established its schedule for the Spring 2017 semester.

 

The repair shop, located at 1833 S. Oak St. in Champaign (click here for a map), is open from noon to 4 PM on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and from 10 AM to 2 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays. No appointment is necessary, but it is recommended that you fill out the online diagnostic form prior to stopping by. This will give staff the opportunity to do some research on your devices and the problem you’re experiencing ahead of time to make your one-on-one session more efficient.

 

Note that Illini Gadget Garage staff and volunteers do not repair items FOR you, but rather WITH you, guiding you through the process of determining the problem, necessary steps to address it, and providing tools to accomplish the repairs. In this way, consumers can become empowered to take action to extend the useful life of their products without the potentially intimidating task of attempting repair, or determining what parts are needed, where to go for help, etc. all on their own. Working with the Illini Gadget Garage can also eliminate the need for more technically savvy do-it-yourselfers to obtain tools they may only need to use one time.

 

If you can’t fit a trip to the Oak St. facility into your schedule, consider stopping by Tech Tuesdays on Tuesday evenings from 6-9 PM at the Undergraduate Library Media Commons. Illini Gadget Garage staff will be on hand for assistance with devices, and to provide information on the project, volunteer opportunities, and other opportunities for collaboration. If your group or department is interested in hosting a pop-up repair clinic in your building, please fill out the online form to express interest in hosting a clinic.

 

Illini Gadget Garage assistance is currently available free of charge, thanks to seed funding from the UI Student Sustainability Committee and other sponsors. Questions about services, open hours, and volunteer opportunities can be addressed to illinigadgetgarage@gmail.com. General questions about the project, educational collaboration, sponsorship opportunities and related issues can be addressed to Joy Scrogum at jscrogum@illinois.edu or 217-333-8948.

 

circuit board with open hours for repair center listed

EPA’s Safer Choice Label helps consumers make informed choices

saferchoice_rgbFinding products that are safer for you, your family, and the environment should be easy. That’s why EPA developed the new Safer Choice label. Products with the Safer Choice label help consumers and commercial buyers identify products with safer chemical ingredients, without sacrificing quality or performance.
 
More than 2,000 products currently qualify to carry the Safer Choice label. You can find products for your home at retail stores. You can also find products to use in facilities like schools, hotels, offices, and sports venues.
 
Participation in the Safer Choice program is voluntary. Companies that make products carrying the Safer Choice label have invested heavily in research and reformulation to ensure that their products meet the Safer Choice Standard. These companies are leaders in safer products and sustainability.
 
Products have to meet stringent criteria in order to earn the Safer Choice label. In addition to product ingredients, the program also considers product performance, pH, packaging and more to ensure that products with the label are safer for you and your family. Once a product meets the Safer Choice Standard, EPA conducts annual audits to ensure that they continue to do so.
 
You can search for products that meet the Safer Choice Standard here.