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.

 

 

New project uses flue gas and wastewater to make algae

Aerial image of an algae cultivation system from Global Algae Innovations
Aerial image of an algae cultivation system from Global Algae Innovations

A three-year, $2.5 million Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) engineering-scale project will be one of the first and largest to combine carbon dioxide (CO2) from a coal-fired power plant with nutrients from wastewater treatment plants to cultivate algae for animal feeds. The project will demonstrate that producing algae for commodity animal products can be cost-effective and has added environmental benefits.

Algae has been used for decades in the niche markets of health and beauty. A more recent focus is its ability to use CO2 from coal-fired power plants to make biofuels and protein-rich food products.

Algae is fast-growing compared with traditional terrestrial feed crops, so it’s an attractive alternative for use in taking up CO2 from power plants because it requires less land, according to ISTC principal investigator Lance Schideman. Researchers will use the algae species Spirulina because it is already FDA approved for use as a food ingredient and has a high protein content, which commands higher prices.

The algae cultivation system will be integrated with the City Water, Light and Power plant in Springfield, Illinois. Schideman is collaborating with University of Illinois researchers Joshua McCann and Carl Parsons, who will conduct the animal feed studies. Global Algae Innovations will provide the algae biomass production system to be demonstrated at field scale for this project. The project is co-funded by the U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory.

In the past, ISTC scientists have researched wastewater algae systems that are now used at 10 full-scale operating wastewater plants. They’ve also been a leader in recycling the byproducts of hydrothermal biofuel production to enhance algal biomass productivity. Global Algae Innovations is a leading designer and equipment supplier in the algae industry that has developed and demonstrated cost-effective, large-scale algae production systems.

“We’re putting all the pieces together in a coordinated fashion and lowering the net costs of growing algae using industrial and municipal by-products as inputs to improve the economic environmental sustainability of algal carbon capture,” Schideman said.

This approach reduces pollution and replaces the costly CO2 and nutrient inputs used in most algae cultivation systems. In the current commercial technology, managers buy liquid CO2 and various commercial fertilizers for the nutrient supply.

The wastewater, which is full of organic nutrients that support algae growth, will come from a local wastewater treatment plant.

“Using wastewater is a cost savings in the production process and it helps to solve problems that wastewater treatment plants are experiencing in trying to minimize nutrient discharges in the environment,” Schideman said. “In Illinois, the treatment plants are under increasing scrutiny, and regulations that are now voluntary are expected to become more stringent and potentially mandatory within the next decade.”

Ultimately, the system will produce feed especially for cattle and chickens. The product will be dry, which helps reduce spoilage, and will have a high nutritional value compared with some other feeds.

The typical price range for most bulk animal feed ingredients is $150–350 per ton, and certain high-value products can have a market value of $1,000–$2,000 per ton. Algae has the potential to command prices near the top of the range since some species contain highly nutritional components such as antioxidants and poly-unsaturated fatty acids. However, algal animal feeds are not yet established in the market, and the value of these products must be demonstrated through research studies like this one.

Schideman notes that the size of the animal feeds market is quite large and is a good match with the amount of CO2 produced by power plants around the country. Thus, using CO2 from flue gas in algae production has the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gasses.


Media contact: Lance Schideman, 217-390-7070, schidema@illinois.edu
news@prairie.illinois.edu

US EPA releases report on environmental impacts of US food waste

EPA infographic on environmental impacts of US food waste
Image from US EPA Office of Research and Development.

On November 30, 2021, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a new report entitled “From Farm to Kitchen: The Environmental Impacts of U.S. Food Waste (Part 1).”

This report reveals the climate and environmental impacts of producing, processing, distributing, and retailing food that is ultimately wasted and projects the environmental benefits of meeting the US goal to prevent 50 percent of food waste by 2030. The report was prepared to inform domestic policymakers, researchers, and the public, and focuses primarily on five inputs to the US cradle-to-consumer food supply chain — agricultural land use, water use, application of pesticides and fertilizers, and energy use — plus one environmental impact — greenhouse gas emissions.

This report provides estimates of the environmental footprint of current levels of food loss and waste to assist stakeholders in clearly communicating the significance; decision-making among competing environmental priorities; and designing tailored reduction strategies that maximize environmental benefits. The report also identifies key knowledge gaps where new research could improve our understanding of US food loss and waste and help shape successful strategies to reduce its environmental impact.

The new report reveals that each year, the resources attributed to US food loss and waste are equivalent to:

  • 140 million acres agricultural land – an area the size of California and New York combined;
  • 5.9 trillion gallons blue water – equal to the annual water use of 50 million American homes;
  • 778 million pounds pesticides;
  • 14 billion pounds fertilizer – enough to grow all the plant-based foods produced each year in the United States for domestic consumption;
  • 664 billion kWh energy – enough to power more than 50 million US homes for a year; and
  • 170 million MTCO2e greenhouse gas emissions (excluding landfill emissions) – equal to the annual CO2 emissions of 42 coal-fired power plants

In short, significant resources go into growing, processing, packaging, storing, and distributing food. Thus, the most important action we can take to reduce the environmental impacts of uneaten food is to prevent that food from becoming waste in the first place.

A companion report, “The Environmental Impacts of U.S. Food Waste: Part 2,” will examine and compare the environmental impacts of a range of management pathways for food waste, such as landfilling, composting, and anaerobic digestion. EPA plans to complete and release this second report in Spring 2022. Together, these two reports will encompass the net environmental footprint of US food loss and waste.

Read the full report at https://www.epa.gov/system/files/documents/2021-11/from-farm-to-kitchen-the-environmental-impacts-of-u.s.-food-waste_508-tagged.pdf.  (PDF document, 113 pages)

For questions, contact Shannon Kenny, Senior Advisor, Food Loss and Food Waste, US EPA Office of Research and Development.

ISTC Technical Assistance Program launches new webpages

TAP homepage

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) Technical Assistance Program (TAP) has a new web presence. You may now find information on TAP at https://go.illinois.edu/techassist.

TAP 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 organizations achieve profitable, sustainable results.

The new website makes it easier to find information on TAP programs, services, and projects. Visitors can sign up for free site visits or learn about fee-for-service opportunities to engage our sustainability experts. Any Illinois organization, business, manufacturing facility, institute of higher learning, government entity, public utility, or institution may request one free site visit (per location) at no cost to the facility.

General inquiries may be addressed to istc-info@illinois.edu. You may also reach out to specific TAP team members for assistance in their areas of expertise.

Glass Recycling Foundation partners with Corona on glass recycling pilot project

Corona Protect Our Beaches and Glass Recycling Foundation logo

In a recent webinar hosted by the Illinois Recycling Association/Illinois Recycling Foundation (IRA/IRF), Scott Defife, President, Glass Packaging Institute and Glass Recycling Foundation (GRF), and Jeff Lang of Legacy Marketing described the Corona Protect Our Beaches program currently being deployed throughout Chicagoland.

According to GRF, more than 28 million glass bottles and jars end up in landfills each year, despite the fact that glass is endlessly recyclable. Recycling glass can protect the environment, economy, and sustainable manufacturing by capturing materials for reuse and keeping them out of landfills, as well as preventing litter from polluting the ocean and beaches.

To improve glass diversion from landfills and educate the public about the importance of glass recycling, Constellation Brands and its popular beer brand, Corona, have teamed up with GRF for a glass recycling initiative as part of the Corona Protect Our Beaches campaign.

This pilot program involves glass bottle recycling at Chicago-based bars and restaurants. Participating locations will separate their glass bottles into a separate bulk bin for pick up, starting in late June 2021. The GRF pays a hauler for the pick-ups; there is no cost to the participating locations. Any glass bottle, not just Corona-branded bottles, can be recycled, and no color sorting of bottles is required (as noted during the webinar Q&A).  Additionally, a small amount of incidental contamination (e.g. napkins or straws) is acceptable. This creates a simple system for the participating pilot locations.

The glass recycling pilot will be paired with special events including an interactive experience that sheds light on the need for glass recycling and helps “crush the problem.” At these events, empty bottles will be turned into a sand-like powder using a grinding machine that allows members of the public to watch the process, thus capturing their attention and imagination. Event attendees learn about the program and the call to action, “#DontTrashGlass.” Select consumers will be able to feed empty bottles into the grinding machine. Events will also feature a sand art station for attendees to enjoy as they learn about the benefits of recycling glass. According to Defife and Lang, the grinding machine is actually relatively quiet; the generators used to power the machine at these events is louder than the machine itself. The sand-like substance fits well with the theme of Corona’s Protect Our Beaches campaign and brand identity. GRF recognizes that there are many ways to use recycled glass and beach restoration is one of them; in addition, bottles can become new bottles, fiberglass, construction aggregate, sandblasting, and more.

Corona glass recycling event

Over the course of nine weeks this summer, the grinding machine will tour ten different wholesalers and corresponding accounts. The complete list of grinding events is available at https://protectbeaches.com/events/. Events kick off on June 25 at two locations in St. Charles, IL, and one in West Chicago.

During the webinar, it was noted that additional restaurants and bars can be added to the pilot in the Chicagoland area by contacting Defife or Lang (their email addresses are provided at the end of the webinar recording). Also, the collaborative team is trying to figure out what it would cost to continue the recycling program beyond the pilot period. A similar pilot is taking place in Phoenix, AZ, in partnership with Glass King. At the end of the pilot the total tonnage of glass recycled will be measured to illustrate diversion impacts. Participating locations will also learn valuable information about the nature of their waste streams from those measurements.

Learn More

Links, company, and brand names are provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as endorsements by ISTC or the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Solar-Powered Savings: Impacts of Net Zero Electricity at BEER NUTS

Packages of BEER NUTS
Image credit: BEER NUTS

BEER NUTS operates manufacturing, packaging, shipping, and office spaces in a multi-level, 100,000 square foot facility on a 16/4 schedule. It produces a variety of snack products and exclusively manufacturers its own products with a wide range of recipes. Products are distributed through various retail outlets and direct to consumers.

In fall of 2019, ISTC and their partners completed an Economy, Energy, and Environment (E3) assessment at BEER NUTS, a small, family-owned Illinois snack facility. At the company’s request, the assessment included the feasibility of on-site solar photovoltaics (PV).

The assessment revealed electricity savings opportunities that will reduce usage by 436,000 kWh annually. Once implemented, BEER NUTS’ electricity usage will drop to 342,000 kWh. Using this estimate and additional factors, the assessment partners proposed a 260 kW solar installation costing approximately $481,000. This array, projected to generate 342,370 kWh annually, would supply 100% of BEER NUTS electricity.

Despite the sizable upfront capital investment, the array could result in first-year cost of $94,820 through a reduced power bill and federal, state, and utility incentives. With continuing energy cost savings and incentives, BEER NUTS will break even at 2.5 years of ownership and will see a reduction of $149,000 in utility costs by the 5th year.

After implementing the proposed recommendations, BEER NUTS’ operations will be on target to achieve net zero electricity, meaning that the annual electricity delivered to this facility from the grid will be less than or equal to the renewable energy exported from this facility to the grid. It will also put them on the path to net zero energy. Finally, these recommendations will reduce BEER NUTS’ carbon emissions by 329.95 metric tons. This gives them a significant competitive advantage when working with retailers like Walmart, Kroger, and Amazon that have established sustainability benchmarks both for their own operations and for their suppliers.

This case study demonstrates that a small food manufacturer in central Illinois can replace its annual electricity usage with solar at a 2.5-year payback. Manufacturing facilities across Illinois can replicate these practices with similar benefits, regardless of sector, size, location, or familiarity with solar.

Read the full case study.

ISTC awarded over $400,000 to assist Illinois manufacturers

ISTC’s Technical Assistance Program (TAP) has been awarded over $400,000 in EPA grants to assist manufacturers with improving their bottom line by greening their operations. Assistance under these grants is provided at no cost to participating companies. The funds cover work with manufacturers and their supporting industries across many sectors including:

TAP scientists work collaboratively to identify and promote sustainable manufacturing at the product, process, and system level, resulting in less waste, more efficient use of energy and other resources, fewer environmental impacts, and increased profitability.

For additional information, please contact Irene Zlevor (email izlevor@illinois.edu or call 217.300.8617).

 

Webinar: Pollution Prevention Opportunities for Ammonia Emissions in the Food and Beverage Sector

Register today for a free webinar from the US EPA, Wednesday, November 18, 2020, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM CST.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) will cover their recently completed food and beverage pollution prevention (P2) work funded under EPA Region 5’s Pollution Prevention Grant Program. The webinar will provide attendees with:

  • an overview of the sources of emissions of ammonia from the industrial refrigeration systems commonly used in food and beverage processing facilities;
  • a summary of refrigerant inventory determination methods for industrial ammonia systems, including an Ammonia Inventory Calculator, which is a new online resource to estimate the operating charge of existing systems; and
  • the use of dynamic charge calculations for flagging refrigerant losses from systems that would otherwise go undetected.

Applications of these methods, along with best practices for identifying and eliminating fugitive ammonia leaks identified during fieldwork in Wisconsin food and beverage plants will also be discussed.

Speakers:

  • Douglas Reindl, Ph.D., P.E., Professor UW-Madison & Director of the Industrial Refrigeration Consortium
  • Marc Claas, Researcher, UW-Madison’s Industrial Refrigeration Consortium

University of Wisconsin-Madison logo

Industrial Refrigeration Consortium logo

 

 

 

Register online at https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/6143302827653408272.

Questions? Please contact Christine Anderson, US EPA Region 5.

 

COVID-19 tools from the Wasted Food Action Alliance

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 [EnglishSpanishArabic] 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.