#P2Week Day 2: Reducing Your Impact Through Repair

This post was written by Joy Scrogum and originally published on the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR) BlogFor more information on Pollution Prevention (P2) Week, see https://www.epa.gov/p2week

Those of us in the Great Lakes region (and the rest of the US and Canada) live in a so-called “throw-away society” in which consumerism is rampant, and goods are not often designed or produced with durability in mind. In fact, in recent years, more and more goods are designed to be explicitly or implicitly disposable. Even complex products, such as consumer electronics, are treated as if they are meant to be ephemeral. The classic example is the smartphone. These devices are astounding feats of scientific innovation and engineering. For perspective, consider ZME Science’s article from September 2017: Your smartphone is millions of times more powerful than all of NASA’s combined computing in 1969. Despite their complexity, and the fact that you, and probably everyone you know, barely scratch the surface in terms of using these devices to their full potential, we are constantly bombarded with cues to upgrade to the latest model. And new models seem to be released ever more frequently, always being touted as somehow greatly more advanced than their predecessors. A simpler example is clothing–when was the last time you sewed up or patched a hole in a shirt or pair of pants? Something that once would have been done by most people as a matter of course might now be deemed peculiar. A modern member of our culture might wonder why one would bother to patch a pair of pants when a new pair could be obtained so cheaply.

Our “take-make-dispose” model can also be called a  linear economy, and the message you receive in such a system is clear: if you have something that becomes damaged or has minor performance issues, you should just replace it. In fact, even if what you have is working well, the time will quickly come when you should just replace the old with the new. Replace, rinse, and repeat. A linear economy is one in which natural resources are extracted and used to create goods which will entirely, or partially, inevitably end up in landfills or incinerators. Some materials may be recovered and recycled, but over time these materials degrade in quality and are used for increasingly lower grade purposes, so that ultimately they will become wasteof little or no further use.

Of course, in order to replace whatever is being disposed of, new goods are required. And those new goods require as much or more resources as the ones that went before them–new minerals and other raw materials must be extracted. Extraction processes can have negative environmental and social impacts (e.g. pollution, habitat destruction, human rights issues related to labor practices, health issues related to exposure to chemicals or physical risks, etc.). Materials are transported to factories (requiring the use of energy in the form of fuel) where they are transformed into new products, again potentially with new human exposures to toxins or other adverse conditions, and potential new emissions of toxins or other substances of concern. In the case of products such as electronics, sometimes components are manufactured in places distant from each other and must be further transported to be brought together in yet another factory to create a complete device. And the finished product is in turn transported across the globe to reach consumers, resulting in more expenditure of energy, more emissions. By the time most products reach the consumer, a great deal of natural and human resources have been invested in them, and however positively the product itself may impact a human life or the broader ecosystem, the number of potential negative impacts all along the supply chain have stacked up. Clearly, any tendency to treat products as disposable, purposefully or incidentally, exacerbates those negative impacts by requiring the manufacture of more products, more quickly than might otherwise have been the case, as long as the demand for product does not diminish.

The tragedy of this linear cycle of use and disposal has lead to the advocacy for a circular economy–one in which extraction of resources is minimized and products and services are designed in such a way as to maximize the flow of materials through resource loops as close to perpetually as physically possible. In such a system, what might have once been considered “waste” continues to be valued in some form or another. A circular economy is built upon design for durability, reuse, and the ability to keep products in service for as long as possible, followed by the ability to effectively reclaim, reuse and recycle materials.

A comparison of linear and circular economies. From the New Zealand Ministry for Environment, https://www.mfe.govt.nz/waste/circular-economy.

So while the industrial designers of tomorrow will hopefully create products that are in line with the more circular worldview, what can you as a consumer do today to foster a circular economy? Of course you can reduce your use of materials, but practically, you will still need to use some products in order to support yourself, your family, and your lifestyle. You can reuse materials for something other than their original purpose, and sell or donate unwanted functional items so that someone else may use them. Similarly you can purchase items that have been previously used by someone else. And recycling of materials after the end of their original purpose allows for at least some extension of their value. But there is another “r,” which in some ways can be seen as a specialized form of reuse, that is becoming more popular–repair. If you own something with minor damage or performance issues, you can choose to repair it rather than replace itAccording to WRAP, a UK organization dedicated to resource efficiency and the circular economy,  “Worth over £200m in gross revenue each year, 23% of the 348,000 tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) collected at household waste and recycling centres could be re-used with minor repairs.” The US company iFixit reports similar statistics, and further states that for every 1000 tons of electronics, landfilling creates less than one job, recycling creates 15 jobs, and repair creates 200 jobs.

There are many barriers to repair, including costs (real or perceived), knowledge, confidence in those performing the repair (one’s self or someone else), and access to tools, instruction manuals and repair code meanings which tell technicians exactly what the problem is so they can address it. Manufacturers of a variety of products, particular those with electronic components (everything from automobiles to cell phones to tractors) have come under pressure in recent years over the attempt to monopolize access to parts, tools, and necessary information for performing repairs, leading to what is called the Right to Repair movement. Currently, 18 US states, including Illinois, Minnesota,  and New York in the Great Lakes region, have introduced “fair repair” bills which would require manufacturers of various products to make those tools, parts, and pieces of information accessible to consumer and third-party repair shops. You can read more about the history of the right to repair movement and right to repair legislation on the Repair Association web site.

In an increasing number of communities around the world, citizens are coming together to share their knowledge, tools, and problem-solving skills to help each other repair every day items for free. I’m writing this on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and here are some examples of local projects that can help you repair the items you own:

  • Illini Gadget Garage. This one’s my favorite, but I’m admittedly biased, since I helped launch this project and coordinated it for the past few years. The IGG is a collaborative repair center for personally-owned electronic devices and small appliances. “Collaborative repair” means that project staff and volunteers don’t repair your device for you; rather they work with you to troubleshoot and repair your device. Assistance is free; consumers are responsible for purchasing their own parts if needed, though staff can help determine what parts might be necessary. In addition to working with consumers by appointment at their campus workshop, the IGG crew conduct “pop-up” repair clinics in various public spaces around the Champaign-Urbana community and across campus. Consumers not only benefit from the “do-it-together” approach, they also get access to specialized tools (e.g. soldering irons, pentalobe screwdrivers, heat guns, etc.) that enable device repair, which many folks wouldn’t have in their tool box at home. Though successful repair obviously can’t be guaranteed, project staff say that if it has a plug or electrical component, and you can carry into the shop (or pop-up), they’ll help you try to figure out and fix the problem.
  • The Bike Project of Urbana-Champaign. Including both a downtown Urbana shop and a Campus Bike Center, this project provides tools and space for bicyclists to share knowledge and repair bicycles. This project sells refurbished bikes, and individuals who are willing to work on fixing up a donated bike (with assistance) can eventually purchase a bike at a discount. See https://thebikeproject.org/get-involved/join-the-bike-project/ for membership fees; an equity membership based on volunteer hours is available.

Wherever you live, you can watch for repair-related courses from local community colleges and park districts, and check to see if your local library operates a tool library, or at least lends some tools (e.g. you can check out a sewing machine and accessories from the Urbana Free Library). Many libraries also provide access to online research tools that can assist with auto and home repairs or more (e.g. see https://champaign.org/library-resources/research-learning).

Interested in starting your own repair-oriented project? Check out these additional examples and resources:

Learn more about the circular economy on the WRAP web site, or the Ellen MacArthur Foundation web site.

 

 

University YMCA announces August 2018 collection days for Dump & Run sale

The University YMCA has announced August 2018 collection days for its annual Dump & Run Sale.

Drop Off Collection Dates & Times

  • August 14, 15, 16, and 17 from 9am-3pm
  • late drop off day Wednesday August 15: 9am-7pm
  • Drop off hours Saturday August 18: 9am-noon

They do NOT accept TVs, non-working electronics, sofa beds, and any chemicals. See  https://universityymca.org/dump_and_run/ for full list. Free pick-up day for furniture and bikes: August 8 and 9 from 9am-4pm. Request a pickup.

Sale Dates

Located at the Stock Pavilion, 1402 W. Pennsylvania Ave.

Saturday, August 25, 2018
8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. $3 admission
International U of I Students get in free with ticket.

Sunday, August 26, 2018
11:00am – 2:00 p.m.: $3 bag sale and 1/2 price furniture
2:30-3:00 p.m.: “Free sale”

Want to shop early? Volunteer 6+ hours for first dibs during the August pre-sale! Sign up today.

Looking for more places in Champaign-Urbana that accept donations? See the C-U Donation Guide.

The long road of antiseptic chemical concerns leads to a new ban in health care

WRITTEN BY: Katherine Gardiner, ISTC staff

ISTC will host the Emerging Contaminants in the Aquatic Environment Conference at the U of I on June 5-6.
ISTC will host the Emerging Contaminants in the Aquatic Environment Conference at the U of I on June 5-6.

A ban on the use of 24 antiseptic ingredients, including triclosan, for use in health care settings will take effect at the end of this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last month. That extends a 2016 ban on Triclosan, and other active ingredients, from use in consumer products.

The action is the latest development in a long road of coping with the competing rights and responsibilities of marketplace innovation, regulatory power, public health, and rapid advances in our scientific ability to detect such compounds.

Triclosan was patented in 1964 as an antibacterial and antifungal agent by the Swiss company Ciba-Geigy. Worldwide production and use began in the early 1970s. Just 14 years later, the compound was detected in U.S. wastewater, river water, and sediment and was labeled as an environmental contaminant.  The FDA proposed banning the use of triclosan in soaps in 1978, but the proposal was never finalized.

Since then triclosan and other antibacterials have continued to find their way into many consumer products.  For example, Hasbro, the maker of Playskool toys, was fined in 1997 for false advertising because they claimed their toys made with antibacterials were safer for kids than those without.

Present in antibacterial soaps, toothpastes, and body washes, triclosan is considered a Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Product (PPCP), which the Water Quality Association defines as “products used by individuals for personal health/well-being or for cosmetic purposes.” PPCPs have been identified as emerging contaminants of concern by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because little is known about their impact on the environment or their risks to human health when released into the ecosystem.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sued the FDA in 2010 to force a decision on triclosan and other antibacterials. Four years later, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) supported the FDA’s original findings by reporting triclosan as one of the top contaminants of emerging concern detected in biosolids. The FDA finally made the decision to ban triclosan in consumer products in 2016; now in 2018, this ban will be extended to the medical industry.

photo of hand washing
FDA experts maintain that washing hands with ordinary soap and water is as effective as using antibacterial compounds.

Why all the concern? They are pervasive. The widespread use of triclosan and other antibacterials has left residues in our environment, as well as in our bodies. Using bio-monitoring, triclosan residue was detected in 75 percent of Americans over six years old. Thought to be absorbed through the skin, tests have found traces of triclosan in human blood, urine, and breast milk.

Also research at ISTC and elsewhere have shown PPCPs can act as endocrine disruptors (EDCs), which alter hormone functions.  Animal studies have shown that triclosan alters the way hormones work in the body, which is alarming considering potential impacts on human health. To spread awareness of the most recent emerging contaminant research, policies, and education, ISTC is hosting its third conference on emerging contaminants this June 5-6.

ISTC has also sponsored research to study the impact of triclosan on the environment. A three-year study ran from 2009 to 2012 and involved researchers analyzing two rivers in the Chicago area receiving effluent from wastewater treatment plants. Effluent from wastewater treatment plants can serve as a point source for a range of pollutants, including PPCPs. When analyzing the rivers, researchers found that increased exposure to triclosan was linked to both an increase in triclosan resistance and a decrease in biodiversity within the benthic bacterial communities.  These results show that the common and widespread use of triclosan could have negative ecological consequences.

Further laboratory studies have matched ISTC’s suggestion that triclosan may contribute to bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance has significant impacts to human health, as it could diminish the effectiveness of some medical treatments, including antibiotic treatments.

Despite being used for the past four decades, manufacturers have proven neither the effectiveness nor the safety of long-term use of triclosan.  The FDA has determined that antibacterial soap is no more effective than plain soap and water and challenged the industry to demonstrate otherwise.

Excluded from the new regulative action are six antiseptic active ingredients: ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, povidone-iodine, benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, and chloroxylenol. The FDA said further research is needed before commenting on the safety or effectiveness of these six ingredients.

The new FDA rule will go into effect Dec. 20, 2018.

#ECAEC18 co-sponsors: @ISTCatUIUC, @UCRiverside, @ILINSeaGrant, @CEEatIllinois

Air, Water, Soil: Prairie Research Institute Researchers Host Chinese Peers

 

SoyFace research site
SoyFace studies methods to enhance agricultural yields today and in the face of changing climatic conditions.

Scientists from seven Chinese universities visited the University of Illinois July 11-13 to compare research goals and approaches in their efforts for cleaner air, water and soil.
The Prairie Research Institute (PRI) China Workshop deepened relationships begun in recent years by environmental experts of both countries to strengthen scientific collaborations. The workshop examined environmental concerns about air, water, and soil pollution that are of mutual interest to help solve a wide range of critical issues in these areas.

 

 

weather and air quality monitoring site
PRI’s Illinois State Water Survey maintains one of the nation’s most comprehensive weather and air quality monitoring sites.

The Chinese visitors represented the College of Civil Engineering at Nanjin University, Jiangsu Insitute of Environmental Industry, the College of Environmental Science and Engineering at Tongji University, the School of Environmental Engineering and Sciences of North China Electric Power University, the College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at Peking University, Chongqing Institute of Green and intelligent Technology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the School of Space and Environment at Beihang University, and Beijing Dopler Eco-Technologies Co.
The visitors also sampled a number of high-profile U of I research projects including agricultural enhancement at SoyFace (top), weather and air quality monitoring (second from top) and (third from top) soil reclamation (Mud-to-Parks dredging project at Lake Decatur).

 

 

topsoil recovery project at Lake Decatur
PRI’s Illinois Sustainable Technology Center has pioneered the recovery of lake and river sediments (here from Lake Decatur) for use as high quality top soil.

Wide-ranging technical presentations during the workshop included focuses on:
• air pollution modeling, health effects and remediation;
• surface and groundwater contamination and new treatment strategies; and
• soil contamination prevention and remediation.

 

Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin (bottom) welcomed the Chinese scientists, describing the long history of friendship and cooperation between cities and universities in China.

 

 

Urbana mayor marlin toasted Chinese visitors
Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin toasted the success of the PRI/China research collaboration.

 

 

 

Illini Gadget Garage Announces Hours for Summer 2017 and Off-Campus Services

The Illini Gadget Garage (IGG) is a collaborative repair center on the UIUC campus to assist students, staff and faculty with troubleshooting and repair of minor damage and performance issues for their personally owned electronic devices and small appliances. The project is coordinated by the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) Technical Assistance Program as a waste reduction outreach project of the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI).

 

Summer hours
The IGG has announced hours for Summer 2017. “Pop-up” repair clinics will be held at the Undergraduate Library Media Commons on Mondays and Wednesdays from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM. Open hours will be held at the IGG’s physical workshop (INHS Storage Building #3) on South Oak Street on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 AM to 2 PM and on Fridays from noon to 4 PM. A map is available for directions to the physical location: http://tinyurl.com/guv4n9z. Note that hours are subject to change, as staff are working to schedule more pop-up clinics in order to bring services to a wider audience, so check the project web site or Facebook page for announcements.

Image which lists the summer 2017 hours for the Illini Gadget Garage

 

Bring a pop-up repair clinic to your facility
Related to that spirit of expansion, the IGG is now offering off-campus pop-ups for companies and organizations that would like to bring “do-it-together” repair to their site as way to engage employees and patrons in product stewardship and sustainability. Staff will come to your location with the necessary tools, and they can arrange to have your audience fill out a diagnostic form in advance so they can research information on the devices and issues being faced ahead of time, making one-on-one interactions during the event more productive. Off-campus pop-ups are 2-4 hours long to allow sufficient time for troubleshooting, repairs, and any additional research. Note that IGG does not sell parts, but if it is determined that a part is needed, staff can assist individuals in determining the exact models of required parts and in researching ways to obtain the part. Staff can also help individuals identify local repair businesses that could help them address more complex damage or businesses that can accept items for proper recycling if they are beyond repair. IGG can help identify local businesses and/or online vendors for informational purposes only; the IGG does not endorse any external business and the ultimate decision of how/where to obtain parts or services is that of the consumer.

 

A pop-up repair clinic can provide a unique benefit to your staff, and be part of your organization’s sustainability efforts, by creating conversations around the impacts of product manufacture, design, and end-of-life management. Such events also provide empowerment and team building opportunities. If you have questions or are interested in scheduling a clinic at your facility, please contact Joy Scrogum, ISTC Sustainability Specialist, for more information and pricing. Fees are charged to host organization of a pop-up clinic to support staff members time both at the event and for preparation; however individuals that attend your event (e.g. employees and/or patrons) are not themselves charged for the assistance they receive. Off-campus pop-up clinics are not restricted to the Champaign-Urbana metropolitan area, but please be aware that additional fees may apply for travel.

View from above showing a student seated at a table working with tools to dismantle and repair a laptop

 

Support IGG outreach in your community or on the UIUC campus
Companies and corporations interested in sponsoring a pop-up repair clinic in their community or at a particular public space are encouraged to contact Joy Scrogum to discuss possibilities and to receive instructions for contributions to the appropriate UI Foundation fund. Additionally, any individual or company interested in supporting IGG’s efforts to provide product stewardship and waste reduction guidance to the UIUC community at no cost to students, faculty and staff may make online donations via the UI Foundation to the “SEI Various Donors Fund,” which supports the educational efforts of the Sustainable Electronics Initiative. You may indicate “Support the Illini Gadget Garage” in the “Special Instructions” section of the online donation form. We thank you and the project’s current sponsors for your support!

Volunteers flip this corner of campus for a ‘natural’ makeover

Google Earth view of the South Arboretum Woods
The latest magnet for student and community sustainability volunteers has been the 22-acre campus feature now known as the South Arboretum Woods.

 

 

After two years a project to invigorate 22 acres near Windsor and Lincoln at the U of I is bringing the plot closer to its “natural” state.

 

TI Love Illinois Week linkhis high profile territory had become a thicket of brambles, invasive species, and dead plants. “I became disgusted,” said John Marlin, a research associate at Illinois Sustainable Technology Center who leads the project. “I drive by it every day on the way home. The honeysuckle was so thick that it was difficult to see more than five feet into the woods.  The understory was shaded to the point that virtually nothing grew at ground level.”

 

Marlin will serve as keynote speaker during Campus Appreciation Day at 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 11 in Room 1092 Lincoln Hall.  Tuesday is Day Two of the University’s I Love Illinois Week. #ILoveIllinois. Marlin has attracted the interest of student volunteers for decades for sustainability projects across campus, including efforts to establish native plantings on campus to benefit indigenous animal species.

 

Funded by the Student Sustainability Committee, the 22-acre clean-up has attracted student volunteers from Red Bison, Students for Environmental Concerns, various other service organizations, East Central Illinois Master Naturalists, and members of the community. The property, now known as the South Arboretum Woods has been placed under the control of the Arboretum which will have long-term management responsibility.

 

Colleagues at the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, the Illinois Natural History Survey, and Facilities and Services have also been key partners by consulting on maintenance issues at the site, Marlin said. Since 2015 groups have assembled to remove invasive species and clear debris to allow a comeback for native plants, insects and other organisms.  Some areas have already been seeded with woodland and prairie plants.

 

All of that effort has put the project right on schedule with the wholesale removal of noxious plants to prepare the way for new plantings this spring, Marlin said. The tenacious villain honeysuckle blocks sunlight and kills native flowering plants (forbs) and bushes that normally occur in healthy woodlands. With the woody pest in retreat, the emphasis is now on preventing honeysuckle re-sprouts and dealing with smaller invasives like garlic mustard.  Seeds of this plant have been dormant in the soil for years and are germinating in response to sunlight which can now reach the floor of the woods.  Over the next few years a variety of trees, shrubs and forbs will be gradually introduced to sections of the woods.

 

The plan is to gradually introduce plants to the area as resources become available and problem plants are removed.  This includes thinning the stands of trees found in the former research plot.  They were planted close together in species plots to facilitate the study on plant diseases and insect pests. Decades later trees 18 inches in diameter are a mere five feet apart.  Removing some of them will allow sunlight penetration and more normal growth.   The initial planting will mainly occur on the east side of the woods where work began in 2015.

 

The planned plantings will run the gamut from sun loving to shade tolerant and will be selected to collectively bloom over the entire growing season with a variety of flower types.  This will serve a large number of insects, many of which, like the monarch butterfly, require or prefer a limited number of plants.  For example a leaf cutter bee (genus Megachile) was found in large numbers last fall on bellflower (Campanula americana) on the shady edge of the woods.

 

On the list for planting at the woods are Spring Beauty (Claytornia virginica), a wildflower Marlin said is used by 58 different kinds of bees. Others being planned include Purple Prairie Clover, Rattle Snake Master, Wild Geranium, Golden Rod and Aster, he added.

 

Mariln said he and Kevin McSweeney, director of the Arboretum, and Jay Hayak, extension specialist in forestry, have discussed the usefulness of the woods for teaching issues such as restoring biological diversity.

 

The area is not yet ready for public use and help in removing material from the area should only be done under supervision, Marlin said. Logs and other woody material will be left on the site to meet specific habitats requirements.

South Arboretum Woods volunteers
Student, staff, and community volunteers have prepared the South Arboretum Woods for plantings of native species this spring.

 

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

 

 

Sustainable Laboratories Keep their Cool with Scientific Rigor

North American Laboratory Freezer Challenge at ISTC
ISTC labs participated in the North American Laboratory Freezer Challenge to improve their sample storage. Right, Susan Barta, analytical chemist, prepares old samples for proper disposal.

 

Laboratories at ISTC ‘got chill’ on March 7 as they got busy with the 2017 North American Laboratory Freezer Challenge.

 

The Challenge promotes sample accessibility, sample integrity, reduced costs, and energy efficiency by recognizing best practices that support science quality and resilience — in addition to minimizing total costs and environmental impacts of sample storage.

 

The competition was a good opportunity to clean out samples that were no longer needed and update organization and logs to improve laboratory access, according to John Scott, senior analytical chemist at the Center.

 

Lance Schideman, research scientist, and John Scott, senior analytical chemist, review chemical stocks
Lance Schideman (left), research scientist, and John Scott, senior analytical chemist, review chemical stocks as part of the Freezer Challenge.

According to Challenge organizers, the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) and My Green Lab, the Centers for Disease Control and the University of California Davis reported that 10-30 percent of items stored in refrigeration units were no longer needed or no longer viable.

 

Scott said the Challenge offers an excellent incentive to review and update stocks of research materials. Especially when a researcher changes jobs, an effort should be made to examine which samples are no longer needed, he said.

 

Major industry sponsors of the Challenge are Stirling Ultracold, ThermoFisher Scientific, and Panasonic. Participants earn points for their activities and winners will be announced in October.

 

Laurel Dodgen and Viktoriya Yurkiv review lab stores
Postdoctoral research assistant Laurel Dodgen and assistant research chemist Viktoriya Yurkiv help with the Challenge.

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.

 

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Tiny Scavenger Proves Apex Predator in Oil Spill Clean Up

nano-carboscavenger particles are small
Two-layered Nano-CarboScavengers have properties to both clump oil spill sheen and disperse them for bacterial digestrion.

When there is an oil spill in a body of water, booms are used to contain it so the contamination can be collected. The aftermath still leaves a sheen of oil that response teams then attempt to keep from devastating the natural environment.

What do they do? They dump chemicals into the water which may be as bad environmentally as the oil.

Enter engineers and chemists from the University of Illinois College of Engineering and ISTC with a new tool to more truly eliminate the damage from oil spills. They have developed microscopic carbon particles they call Nano-CarboScavengers which work in two ways. They have the ability to attract oil and swell in size, creating visible clumps which can be scooped up. The tiny spheres also reduce the surface tension of polluted water, giving natural microorganisms a chance to digest petroleum compounds into harmless components.

Let’s hear it for the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) which showed confidence in Bioengineer Dipanjan Pan and the team to provide them with seed money to develop the idea in 2015. Now the work is published in Nature Publishing. iSEE’s website has the full story.