27 Illinois Organizations Honored for Achievements in Sustainability

Twenty-seven Illinois companies and organizations were honored on October 23 for their significant achievements in protecting the environment, helping sustain the future, and improving the economy. The winners were announced during a ceremony at the Union League Club in Chicago. Read winners summaries in the ceremony program booklet.

“Illinois’ success as an economic and cultural leader depends upon our responsible management of natural resources, as well as sustainable development,” said Kevin OBrien, director of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, which administers the awards program. Every year, a group of champions represents the highest models of sustainable commerce, resource use, and governance – the winners of the Illinois Sustainability Awards.

Since 1987, ISTC has presented Sustainability Awards to organizations in Illinois that have demonstrated a commitment to environmental excellence through outstanding and innovative sustainability practices. Any Illinois public or private organization is eligible to apply for the award. Winners are selected through a rigorous process of review and examination by ISTC technical assistance experts.

The 2018 award winners are listed below. Photos of winning teams can be requested from istc-info@illinois.edu.

More information on the Illinois Sustainability Awards program, lists of previous winners, and information on technical assistance services are available from the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center,  a division of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

2018 Illinois Sustainability Award Winners

  • Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District – Urbana
  • College of Lake County – Grayslake
  • dormakaba USA Inc. – Steeleville
  • Downers Grove Sanitary District – Downers Grove
  • DuPage County – Wheaton
  • First Presbyterian Church of Danville – Danville
  • Golden State Foods McCook – McCook
  • Greenville University – Greenville
  • Hilton Chicago – Chicago
  • Illinois Department of Corrections – Springfield
  • Illinois Farm Bureau – Bloomington
  • INTERRA, Inc. – Bolingbrook
  • Lakeshore Recycling Systems – Morton Grove
  • Lewis and Clark Community College – Godfrey
  • Madison County Planning & Development Department – Edwardsville
  • Menasha Packaging 21G – Edwardsville
  • Nicor Gas – Naperville
  • Northwestern University – Evanston
  • Riggs Beer Company – Urbana
  • Sheridan Correctional Center – Sheridan
  • Smart Energy Design Assistance Center – Champaign
  • Solberg Manufacturing Inc. – Itasca
  • South Metropolitan Higher Education Consortium – Chicago Heights
  • Sterling Lumber Company, LLC – Phoenix
  • Village of Hoffman Estates – Hoffman Estates
  • Village of Mount Prospect – Mount Prospect
  • Village of Mundelein – Mundelein

State Electronics Challenge Recognizes ISTC as a 2017 Gold Award Winner

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) has received a Gold Award for its achievements in the State Electronics Challenge (SEC)–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 2017.

 

SEC Gold level recognition certificate for ISTC in 2017 calendar year, displayed in frame made of repurposed circuit boards

“The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center is truly an outstanding example of a commitment to environmental leadership,” commented Lynn Rubinstein, SEC Program Manager. “This is the fourth year in a row that ISTC has earned a Gold Award.”  She added that “ISTC is one of only 16 organizations nationally being recognized this year and the only one in Illinois.”

 

“We’re honored to have received this recognition, and value our participation in the SEC 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 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. I’d love to see more units at the University of Illinois join the SEC, and in general see more participants in the state of Illinois.”

 

The State Electronics Challenge offers its participants annual opportunities to document their achievements and receive recognition for those accomplishments.  In 2017, the reported actions of 31 participants in green purchasing of electronic office equipment, power management, and responsible reuse and recycling:

  • Prevented the release of 5,503,212 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. This reduction in greenhouse gases is equivalent to the annual emissions from 1,163,470 passenger cars.
  • Saved enough energy to supply almost 5,000 homes per year .
  • Avoided the disposal of hazardous waste equivalent to the weight of 1,258 refrigerators.
  • Avoided the disposal of solid waste – garbage – equivalent to the amount generated by more than 750 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 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, 168 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.

Study Reuse with ISTC’s Joy Scrogum

Beginning September 13, Joy Scrogum, ISTC sustainability specialist and technical assistance program team member, will teach “Reuse as a Sustainability Strategy” at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Illinois. Spaces remain available, so sign up today! The 8-week course meets through November 1.

 

Course overview: When thinking about how to decrease their own “carbon footprint,” or to improve the overall sustainability of our society, many people typically consider strategies involving reduction of consumption or resource use, or increased recycling and use of recycled materials. This course will focus on the often overlooked “third R,” reuse, and why it is an important component of sustainability. Students will be introduced to sustainability, the waste management hierarchy, and the circular economy. The course will explore different forms of reuse (e.g. repair, food recovery, etc.), and their economic, environmental, and social impacts. During the final session we’ll spend some time reflecting on the concepts covered throughout the course and students will brainstorm ideas for how they might apply those concepts to their own lives and/or communities—e.g. in day-to-day lifestyle choices, as part of their business or a volunteer effort, or in congregations or other groups in which they may participate. In other words, we’ll consider how you might take what you’ve learned and use it to be a force for positive change, or more broadly, how these concepts might be applied in the Champaign-Urbana area to make it a more sustainable place for all inhabitants.

 

Each 90-minute session will include lecture/discussion with roughly the last 20-30 minutes dedicated to questions and in-depth discussion. Course materials, including suggested readings and PDF versions of lecture slides, are made available to participants to download from a course web site. There are no assignments or grades–just learning for sake of learning.

 

Course outline: 

  • Week 1 (Sept. 13): Sustainability and Circularity. An introduction to sustainability, the waste management hierarchy, and the circular economy. We’ll explore the differences between reuse and recycling, the environmental impacts of reuse (beyond solid waste reduction), as well as related concepts and terms, such as “zero waste,” “cradle to cradle,” “biomimicry,” etc.
  • Week 2 (Sept. 20): Design Paradigms: Durability vs. Disposability. An exploration of the origins of planned obsolescence, as well as related concepts like technological and perceived obsolescence, and what it all means in terms of the way we interact with products, both from the consumer and designer perspectives. We’ll look at examples of how some products are being designed with reuse and materials reclamation in mind.
  • Week 3 (Sept. 27): Repair is Noble. This tag line is used by the repair-oriented company iFixit to convey how repair is tied to values such as freedom, respect, and conservation. We’ll discuss the extension of the product life cycle through repair, and how that not only reduces solid waste generation, but also consumption of “embodied” resources. Case studies of projects tied to fostering repair will illustrate economic and social benefits through community building and making technology accessible to more people. The “Right to Repair” movement will be outlined, including relevant legislation (proposed or on the books) in various states, including IL. Related concepts, such as refurbishment and remanufacturing, will be defined.
  • Week 4 (Oct. 4): Feeding People, Not Landfills. An exploration of food recovery as an important strategy to fight food waste as well as hunger and poverty. The magnitude of food waste both nationally and globally will be conveyed. Opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship, relevant policy, and challenges related to infrastructure and logistics will be discussed.
  • Week 5 (Oct.11): Secondhand Solutions. We’ll examine enterprises and organizations that contribute to our economy and culture by making commodities out of reused and reclaimed goods. Materials for the Arts, thrift stores, and reclaimed building and home décor warehouses will be presented as familiar examples, along with virtual examples, and tools for connecting individuals for the purposes of exchanging or sharing goods and surplus.
  • Week 6 (Oct.18): Finding Your Repurpose. An analysis of repurposing—reusing or redeploying products or objects with one original use value for an alternative use value. The “beneficial reuse” of buildings, products, vehicles, and materials will be examined, along with the reuse art movement.
  • Week 7 (Oct. 25): Repackaged: Packaging with Reuse in Mind. A survey of packaging waste issues and impacts along with opportunities for change through creative design. Examples of retailers, restaurants, and manufacturers employing reusable packaging strategies will be highlighted.
  • Week 8 (Nov. 1): Full Circle: Summary and Applications Brainstorming. A review of points about environmental, economic, and social impacts of reuse which were touched upon throughout the course, including potential negative impacts as well as positive ones. We’ll delve into ideas for how the strategies discussed are and might be applied in our community, organizations, businesses, policies, personal lives, etc. How might you reuse the information and inspiration gleaned from this course to be a force for positive change?

OLLI is a member-centered community of adult learners that is supported by the Bernard Osher Foundation, the Illinois Office of the Provost, and the generous donations of OLLI members and community partners. It is part of a network of 120 OLLI programs across the United States, and there are over 160,000 members nationwide. OLLI offers fall and spring semesters of 8-week courses taught by distinguished faculty (both current and emeritus) from the University of Illinois and other regional colleges and universities, and community members from a wide variety of areas. A selection of 4-week courses is also offered. The fall 2017 semester begins Monday, September 11th.

 

To sign up for an OLLI course, a community member must first sign up for an OLLI membership. You must be 50 or older to join OLLI. Your OLLI membership includes one free course per year; additional 8-week courses are $40 each, and 4-week courses are $20 each. Annual membership for an individual or the first member of a household membership, active from July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018, costs $180. Adding a second member in your household costs $155. Current course offerings are listed at http://olli.illinois.edu/courses/current.html.

 

You may register for any course, including the Reuse as a Sustainability Strategy course, at any time, right up until the course begins. Register online at https://reg138.imperisoft.com/OlliIllinois/Search/Registration.aspx. If you are not yet an OLLI member, look for the “New user?” link in the log in box at this URL to become a member and obtain a user name and password to sign up for courses. Full registration instructions are available at

http://olli.illinois.edu/downloads/documents/Online%20Registration%20Instructions.pdf.

 

OLLI 10th anniversary (2007-2017) logo

 

Registration Open for Illinois Sustainability Awards Ceremony and Symposium, 10/24/17

Join us in celebrating the recipients of the 2017 Illinois Sustainability Award!  Register now for the Illinois Sustainability Awards Ceremony and Technical Symposium!  Don’t miss the event, held on October 24th at the Union League Club of Chicago, for an excellent opportunity to learn new trends in sustainability and connect with organizations who are on the cutting edge of implementing environmental change.  The morning Technical Symposium will feature keynote Rich Berger, Vice President of Engineering, Food Supply for Clif Bar & Company.  Luncheon keynote is Nancy Liaboe, Director, Global EHS Governance & Product Stewardship, Abbott.  Opportunities for sponsorship and exhibiting may be found at www.istc.illinois.edu/istcawards.

 

View the full agenda at https://www.istc.illinois.edu/cms/One.aspx?portalId=427487&pageId=751338.

 

Registration starts at $50 for the morning session only, $95 for the luncheon only and $130 for all-day admission.  Additional registration opportunities are available for exhibitors and sponsors. Note that the symposium begins at 8:30 AM and the luncheon and awards ceremony begin at 12:00 PM (noon).

 

2017 ISA awards ceremony, 10.24.17, Union League Club of Chicago

Small companies save big with tech advice

Technical assistance available for small, rural businesses.
Manufacturers in smaller towns and cities of Illinois can get help being more profitable and sustainable through ISTC’s Illinois Conservation of Resources and Energy (ICORE) program.

 

A model program to provide technical assistance services to underserved rural areas of Illinois has generated $24 million in savings of energy, water, and waste over its first eight years.

 

In smaller, rural communities technical assistance professionals usually have a more difficult time identifying companies that would benefit from their services. ICORE takes a grassroots approach to identify partners and stakeholders with contacts at municipalities, organizations, associations and agencies. Networking at the local level spreads the word of the potential benefits of third-party business assessments.

 

“In big urban areas it is easy enough to find companies that will benefit from sustainability improvements that will save them money,” said Mike Springman, who with fellow ISTC environmental engineer Dan Marsch, have delivered ICORE, which stands for Illinois Conservation of Resources and Energy, services from the beginning. “We wanted to find a way to share what we offer to the whole state, in particular businesses located in rural communities.”

 

ICORE offers customized assessments resulting in recommendations to conserve energy, reduce water consumption, reduce hazardous materials/wastes, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and save money.  At two recent assessments at Illinois food companies, a range of recommendations were identified , such as improved efficiencies in compressed air, process heat, motors, lighting, water/wastewater and minimization of food waste.

 

Caseyville’s AdvancePierre Foods implemented more than half of the recommendations, some right after the site visit. “Very good information and details emerged from the audit, which we are still working on,” said Michael Doeden, plant manager of the company’s St. Clair County facility. “It is a great way to start a foundation for continuous improvement and cost savings.”

 

Upgrading old electrical equipment is saving the company $6,000 a month, Doeden said. Other ideas like metering for waste water sewage credits will be adopted down the line, he added.

 

King’s Food Products in Belleville, Ill., welcomed the assessment for third-party expertise on how to be more efficient. “The assessment … generated a list of task items we hadn’t considered,” said Stephanie Fahrner, vice president for operations. “Overall the project/participation will improve us as a company — through savings, efficiency, and employee and environmental safety.”

 

“This is a great way for your team to see ideas generated, resources available, and training provided to help continuous improvement in a manufacturing plant,” Doeden agreed. “Additionally, E3 assessments focus on economy, energy and environment … which will benefit sustainability programs, people and is a good foundation for business practices, he added.”

 

In 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in partnership with five other federal agencies formed the E3 technical assistance framework (Economy, Energy, and Environment). One year later EPA started funding the ICORE approach which has taken hold and today has expanded to deliver EPA’s E3 assessments as well.

 

One way of viewing the impact of the program is as accumulated savings which continue to accrue each year. By this measure, between 2008 and 2016, ICORE assistance has made a difference in Illinois totaling approximately $24 million, 160 million gallons of water, 1.9 million therms of natural gas, 209 million kilowatt hours of electricity, 20 million pounds of waste, 433,000 pounds of hazardous waste, and 200,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions avoided.

 

For more information about ICORE/E3 assessments for your business, visit the technical assistance pages at http://istc.illinois.edu/

 

 

Army to pilot ISTC innovation to improve installation resilience, energy security

waste water treatment plant energy recovery
The U.S. Army will pilot a U of I waste to energy system that converts wastewater biosolids to biocrude oil. The design benefits include removal of many bioactive pollutants and a high efficiency of energy extraction.

 

The U.S. Army has funded a project to demonstrate technology developed on the University of Illinois’ South Farm that disposes of wastewater biosolids by turning them into energy.

 

The Army has embraced a range of innovations in its Net Zero program, which strives for zero waste and clean, on-site, renewable energy sources. Two areas where the Army still pays for landfill disposal are food waste and wastewater biosolids.

 

The U of I system will be demonstrated over a two-month period at Fort Detrick, in Frederick, Maryland, where Net Zero team members will document the effectiveness of this approach to improve the environmental footprint and enhance resiliency at Army installations. Fort Detrick has been designated to be an Army pilot installation for Net Zero energy and waste initiatives.

 

The pilot-scale reactor developed by university personnel from Agricultural and Biological Engineering and the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), a division of the Prairie Research Institute, converts these organic materials into biofuels through a hydrothermal process.

 

Instead of expending energy to sterilize and break down organic wastes for landfilling, the one ton per day reactor can produce 3 million BTUs of heat energy, which corresponds to 300 kilowatt-hours of electricity each day. In addition, instead of expending energy to dry the feedstocks, as in most biofuel processes, wet feedstocks are essential to the reaction.

 

“In a hostile theatre, it is dangerous to supply fuel by truck to run electric generators,” said Lance Schideman, the researcher who has led the development efforts at ISTC. “The ability to supply renewable energy on-post promotes readiness and minimizes its environmental impact,” he added.

 

“The system’s small size and portability also make the approach appealing for deployment at military installations here and abroad,” said Stephen Cosper, an engineer with the Army’s Construction Engineering Research Laboratory who has spent a sabbatical year collaborating with researchers at ISTC.

 

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

ISTC Sponsored Research Evaluates Acoustic Leak Detection Network

water leak detection sensors in fire hydrants
A technology demonstration in a greater Chicago neighborhood tested acoustic sensors designed to detect water leaks through a network permanently installed in fire hydrants.

 

 


ISTC’s  Billion Gallon Water Challenge has released a video of its research collaboration with American Water and Echologics to demonstrate new leak detection technology for residential drinking water distribution systems.

 

Last year the research partners tested the effectiveness of Echologics’ acoustic sensors (designed to be permanently) placed in fire hydrants in a greater Chicago neighborhood — in a multi-channel wireless network to provide real-time 24/7 leak detection in buried distribution systems and demonstrated accuracy of 90 percent.

 

one billion gallon water challengeThe technology demonstration was one of ISTC’s Billion Gallon Water Challenge (BGWC) research projects which aimed at saving freshwater resources at multiple levels. A case study on this and other BGWC research is available on ISTC’s website. The technology demonstration was also featured by EfficientGov.com in “Sound Sensors Can Detect Water Pipe Leaks.”

 

In the BGWC video, Kevin Hillen, Illinois American Water operations superintendent, explains that 12-15 percent of water in the Chicago area is lost to leaks.  As water pipe infrastructure continues to age, a greater proportion of potable water will be lost without proactive leak detection and pipe replacement efforts, he added.

 

“Leaks have a distinct sound signature,” according to Eric Stacey, Echologics product manager. “Leaks occur in specific frequency bands for different materials of pipe,” he explained. In cast iron pipes, for instance, leaks produce a sound at about 300 Hz. “It’s audible, the human ear can hear it, and it stands out from a normal pipeline operation.”

 

map of sensor network placement
Networked together, an array of acoustic sensors can pinpoint water leaks as they form.

Economics determines the acceptable level of leakage in a water system. In suburban Chicago, where the cost of water exceeds $5 per 1,000 gallons, the necessity of minimizing leaks is greater than average. At the lower end, water can be delivered in some areas for as little as $0.35 per 1,000 gallons.

 

The installation successfully zeroed in on leaks forming in the American Water distribution system in a neighborhood near Des Plaines, IL. Correlating the data with specialized algorithms, “we were able to show leaks that formed and we were able to show water savings,” Stacey said.

 

BGWC research is funded by the Illinois Hazardous Waste Research Fund.

Academic/Government Partners Work Toward the Next Level in Home Water Filtration

ISTC NEWS


Nanoparticle Membrane Technology Investigated for Commercial Viability  

gold membrane for water filtration
Illustration of free-standing gold membrane with nanoparticles 6 nanometers in diameter and openings of 2 micrometers.

ISTC’s Nandakishore Rajagopalan and Wei Zheng are part of a team of experts from government and academia who are working to improve the filtration of household drinking water using new ultrathin nanoparticle-based membranes to remove trace organic contaminants (TrOCs).

 

The U.S. Department of Energy will fund the work through its Technology Commercialization Fund, which moves promising energy technologies developed by 12 national laboratories and their research partners to the marketplace. ISTC will assist in the testing the performance of prototype TrOCs filtration membrane devices which may be commercially viable for the home water filtration market. The primary investigator on the project is Xiao-Min Lin, a scientist at Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials and at the James Franck Institute, University of Chicago.

 

Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago developed the technology for the new membrane structure using gold nanoparticles which are strong and porous, and which can be ‘dialed’ to selectively trap different contaminants by engineering the ligand on the particle surface. A ligand is a molecule that binds to a central metal atom to form a complex that helps to protect the nanoparticle and introduce additional functionalities. Laboratory measurements have demonstrated the nanoparticle based membrane can selectively filter out molecules as small as 2 micrometers, yet has water permeability far higher than conventional polymer-based membranes.

 

For two years, scientists at Argonne, ISTC and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) of Greater Chicago have been conferring on the problem of removing TrOCs from potable water supplies. Such contaminants consist of hormones, pesticides, prescription medications, personal care products, synthetic industrial chemicals, and chemicals formed during wastewater and drinking-water treatment processes. Even at very low concentrations these molecules can negatively affect aquatic environments and are of concern for human health impacts.

 

“Modern wastewater treatment plants were not designed to remove such materials, especially at such low concentrations,” said Wei Zheng, a senior research scientist at ISTC.

 

The search has been ongoing for methods to remove TrOCs including biodegradation, photolysis, volatization, and sorption. “We hope a gold nanoparticle-based membrane approach will improve the sorption efficiency of TrOC removal at low pressure and low energy — at a cost that makes it widely available for home filtration,” he said.

 

“Deploying new clean energy technologies is an essential part of our nation’s effort to lead in the 21st century economy and in the fight against climate change,” said Lynn Orr, DOE’s Under Secretary for Science and Energy in announcing the grant. DOE’s Technology Commercialization Fund “will help to accelerate the commercialization of cutting-edge energy technologies developed in our national labs, making them more widely available to American consumers and businesses.”

Illinois Teachers Prepare for Lessons on Impact of Drugs in Environment

Proper disposal of unwanted prescription drugs and other common chemicals is important because of their ability to alter living things when introduced into lakes and streams.
Proper disposal of unwanted prescription drugs and other common chemicals is important because of their ability to alter living things when introduced into lakes and streams.

School teachers from across Illinois attended a workshop at the Illinois Sustainable technology Center June 15-16 to help them develop curricula about the risks of improper disposal of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) and the impacts of these emerging contaminants on the environment.

 

The training was conducted with the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program as part of a grant by the University of Illinois Extension to help raise awareness about the importance of proper disposal of unwanted prescription drugs and other common chemicals because of their ability to alter living things when introduced into lakes and streams.

 

According to Rebecca Wattleworth, a veteran teacher at Decatur’s Warrensburg-Latham High School, students and their families will benefit from these messages in their science classes. “When they come into my classroom they often do not realize the impact they have on the environment with their everyday activities,” she said. “They think when they throw it away, litter, etc. (that) it is just gone. Out of sight, out of mind.”

 

Wattleworth said she enrolled in the PPCP teacher workshop so she is prepared to show her students that their actions have consequences. “I want my students to learn that their everyday activities will have an impact in some way on the environment and that they need to be making better/safer choices for both the environment and us!”

 

Geoffrey Freymuth, a science teacher at Jefferson Middle School in Champaign, is attending the workshop to develop activities for his science enrichment class, as well as for the school’s student Green Team. “It has been my experience that students can have a great impact on the behaviors of their families and their habits,” he said. “I would like my students to be able to set up and design a local campaign on the issue or even find a way to test/evaluate local waters etc.,” he added.

 

Joni White, a science instructor at Urbana High School said “As an environmental science teacher, I am well aware that this is an often overlooked problem that seriously impacts the environment. I am eager to learn more about what is being done about it so that I can communicate its importance to my students.” She added “From a personal perspective, I am also a veterinarian and well aware of the medical field issue of pharmaceuticals ending up in the water supply.”

 

In an experiment designed for teachers to use in their classrooms, the workshop participants measured the effect of increasing concentrations of common PPCPs on growth of lettuce sprouts. The compounds used were Aspirin, road salt, and Epsom salt.
In an experiment designed for teachers to use in their classrooms, the workshop participants measured the effect of increasing concentrations of common PPCPs on growth of lettuce sprouts. The compounds used were Aspirin, road salt (MgCl2), and Epsom salt (MgSO4).

Each year, unwanted medications account for accidental poisonings and drug abuse and for environmental problems. The workshops will help this information about PPCPs become a part of each school’s curriculum, according to Nancy Holm, ISTC assistant director. “There are a number of sources of PPCPs to the environment but reducing as much improper disposal as possible is a step in the right direction.”

 

Recent studies reflect the growing concern about how these compounds enter the aquatic environment and their effects on wildlife.

 

  • Salmon in Puget Sound (Seattle) were found to be contaminated with antidepressants, pain killers, anti-inflammatants, fungicides, antiseptics, anticoagulants, and antibiotics. A total of 81 PPCP chemicals from nicotine and caffeine to OxyContin and cocaine.

 

 

  • Research by ISTC was among the first to confirm that the common antiseptic, Triclosan, was causing antibiotic resistance among bacteria in lakes and streams.

 

“This is a threat to public health and also the health of our ecosystems that every family has a direct role in preventing,” Holm added. “By providing this information to teachers they can then present this information to hundreds of students each year who can work to spread the word in their communities.”