Illinois EPA announces notice of funding opportunity for county solid waste planning

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) Director John J. Kim recently announced a new funding to assist counties and other units of local government in implementing their solid waste planning obligations under the Illinois Solid Waste Planning and Recycling Act (SWPRA). This funding opportunity follows a recommendation from the Statewide Materials Management Advisory committee that recommended, in its July 2021 report, that the Illinois EPA provide financial support to units of local government to enable them to make meaningful updates to their statutorily required solid waste management plans. A Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) has been posted to the Illinois EPA website.

Under the Solid Waste Planning and Recycling Act, counties and units of local government are obligated to revisit their Illinois Solid Waste Management Plans every five years and, if necessary, submit plans with significant updates to the Illinois EPA, said Director Kim. These grants provide an important resource to county and local governments as they update these plans for managing solid waste disposal and recycling.”

The Illinois EPA Waste Reduction and Compliance Section is responsible for reviewing county solid waste management plans submitted pursuant to the SWPRA. Through this funding opportunity, Illinois EPA intends to provide interested counties, and other units of local government required to develop a county solid waste management plan, financial assistance to help prepare the next plan update.

Eligible projects include, but are not limited to:

  • Conducting a local solid waste and materials management needs assessment;
  • Surveying local solid waste and materials management stakeholders to determine programmatic expansion viability;
  • Internally authoring solid waste management plan updates; or
  • Procuring consulting services to prepare solid waste management plan updates.

The Illinois EPA Waste Reduction and Compliance Section (WRCS) is responsible for reviewing County Solid Waste Management Plans submitted pursuant to the SWPRA.

Each county or unit of local government required to develop a solid waste management plan is eligible for $5,000.00 of funding. Applications must be submitted electronically to and are due by 5:00 PM (CST) on May 31, 2022. Applicants may not apply for a grant until they are prequalified through the Grant Accountability and Transparency Act (GATA) Grantee portal.

Redesigned Sustain Springfield Green Map Released

The Urban Action Network has partnered with Lincoln Land Community College’s GIS Program since 2017 to provide an online map of all things “green” in Springfield.  The Sustain Springfield Green Map (SSGM) is a user-friendly, GIS-based, online resource that guides residents, visitors, organizations, and businesses to sustainable or environmentally-friendly services, sites, and amenities. Map users can easily find recycling locations, community gardens, car charging stations, and much more. The SSGM has been redesigned to make searching even easier.

This completely redesigned Map streamlines category headings, tells its story better with tabs and graphics, and includes a new Special Projects section in the Gallery. The special projects mini-maps currently include Springfield’s tiny libraries and micro-pantries and the section provides an opportunity for more LLCC GIS students, the public, and special audiences to contribute to its development through emailing suggested additions. A Steering Committee (see Supporters tab in the online map) formulates new ways to expand Map content and engage the public.

The Sustain Springfield Green Map is a project of the Urban Action Network (UAct) which provides executive oversight and operational support. The original map was created as a classroom project by Jordyn Lahey, an LLCC GIS student. The SSGM is hosted by LLCC under the guidance of Geography Professor, Dean Butzow and is maintained as an in-kind service by LLCC GIS Instructor, Rey de Castro and Think GeoSpatial Educator, Jenni Dahl, who are also members of the Steering Committee.

“Springfield is remarkably green for a city of its size and we must continue to cultivate and support sustainability in Springfield.  The Sustain Springfield Green Map is a dynamic tool that showcases Springfield’s environmental services, sites, and amenities placing the information at our fingertips,” said UAct President Sheila Stocks-Smith. “Please share the Map widely with your family, friends, and social networks, and perhaps the Sustain Springfield Green Map can help inspire us all to make conscious choices and act collectively to make every day Earth Day.”

See the newly redesigned Green Map online at

ISTC scientists visit the UK to collaborate on emerging contaminant research

ISTC researchers John Scott, Beth Meschewski, and Lee Green traveled to the United Kingdom (UK) during the first week of February to discuss emerging contaminant issues with their international collaborators.

people sitting around a table in a small meeting room having a lively discussionISTC is one of six universities/organizations from U.S., UK, and France in an international working group called the International Freshwater Microplastics Network to reduce microplastics pollution in freshwater environments. The group met February 4-5, 2020, in a retreat meeting house on the campus of the University of Birmingham, UK. They shared information about recent projects, and then discussed the future of microplastics research.

The group agreed that writing yet another review paper on the status of microplastics in the environment and the research being done was NOT an effective strategy. Instead, they proposed several concrete research ideas, settling on pooling individually collected microplastics data to help develop more robust contamination models for both local and global scenarios. However, most studies report number of particles per volume of water sampled, but current models require an input of mass of plastic per unit volume. To address this issue, the group also wants to standardize the methods used for collection, analysis, and reporting.

While at U of Birmingham, they met with other colleagues to discuss methods development for the detection of various emerging contaminants. They are particularly interested in how emerging contaminants are taken up, transported, and re-released by microplastics.

The three ISTC scientists also visited the University of Plymouth to meet with a colleague working on marine plastic and additives associated with plastics. The Plymouth research group created a display board of 18 materials collected on beaches in the UK, only two of which were natural materials. The remainder were all plastic “rocks” that look very much like natural rocks. ISTC scientists found it difficult to identify two natural rocks just by looking at them. However, there was an obvious weight difference between similarly sized plastic and natural rocks once they picked them up.

grid of 16 objects on white paper labeled with "pyroplastics (-2)" starting from the top left, the two natural rocks are in position 2 across and 2 down. the other is in three down 5 across.
Grid of plastic “rocks” found by research group at U of Plymouth, UK. Only two are natural rocks (circled in red).

The ISTC team and the leader of the Plymouth research group spent some time analyzing black plastics by X-ray fluorescence. This method of analysis can determine the bulk elemental composition of these materials down to the part-per-million (ppm) range. Many of the samples tested contained very high concentrations (in the percent level) of bromine and antimony. If these two elements are present in plastics, it may indicate that the material was sourced  from electronic waste. ISTC researchers collected several of these black researchers around a small table looking at a laptop display of XRF instrament readings.plastics from the U of Plymouth group to analyze them for rare earth and precious metals. The rare earth and precious metals may be present at low concentrations (ppt-ppb) in the plastics if they were sourced from electronic waste. Black plastic is increasingly used in a wide range of products that can include electronics, food containers, packaging, construction materials, textiles, and so on. Many of the metals and additives associated with these materials are toxic to humans, so recycling of these plastics has the potential to increase human exposure to pollutants.

The ISTC team believes that the four new research projects discussed during the trip will make a significant impact in reducing emerging contaminants pollution at the international level.

This World Water Day, Don’t Take Clean Water for Granted

For those of us in the Midwest, water feels like something that will always be there, as constant a fixture in life as the air we breathe. Although it seems that water is ubiquitous, freshwater comprises only 2.5 percent of the world’s supply. The rest is saline and ocean-based. Furthermore, only one percent of freshwater is available for human use. The rest is trapped in glaciers and snowfields

This tiny percentage is found in our lakes, rivers, and aquifers. As the population continues to increase and weather becomes more unpredictable, the amount of available fresh water has decreased. In Illinois, the supply of water is unlikely to completely disappear in the near future. However, the Illinois State Water Survey has projected that as urban areas continue to grow, water supplies will be unable to keep up with the boost in population. Cost is another factor. Extracting fresh water from surface and subsurface sources is no easy feat, and it will increasingly become more costly as demand rises.  

Another issue is contaminants in water supplies.  Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) are of particular concern These compounds are increasingly found in groundwater and surface water. They negatively impact the water quality and can also severely impact aquatic species.  For example, steroid hormones are highly potent endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) which, even at levels as low as nanograms per liter (10-9 g/L or ppt), can adversely affect the reproductive biology of aquatic species. These aquatic species aren’t the only ones  to be the only ones impacted. Plant roots could absorb the PPCPS in water and may accumulate in the edible portions of the plant.

In 2018, the Illinois legislature requested that the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) conduct a scientific literature review of chemicals identified in wastewater treatment plant effluents that are recognized as contaminants of emerging concern. It also requests that PRI compile a listing of the specific actions recommended by various state and federal agencies to address the environmental or public health concerns associated with the chemicals.PRI will provide its impartial report to the General Assembly by June 30, 2020. Because of its long history of pollution prevention expertise, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), a division of the Prairie Research Institute, is taking the lead on this effort. ISTC researchers have studied a variety of inorganic and organic environmental contaminants as well as developed methods for waste and pollution prevention. Read more about the literature review here..

Water scarcity is also an issue, both within Illinois and throughout the world. ISTC’s Technical Assistance Program (TAP) works with Illinois companies to benchmark how much water they currently use and help them find ways to reduce it. In addition, the Institutional Water Program assists facilities equipped with institutional water systems including cooling towers, chillers, and boilers. IWP advises these facilities to help them reduce their chemical, energy, water, and maintenance costs.

Finally, ISTC’s research program has developed a new technology to filter salt and contaminants from water. The system, dubbed Aquapod, appears most applicable to small- or medium-sized desalination units and for thermally sensitive operations such as food and pharmaceutical processing small- or medium-sized desalination units and for thermally sensitive operations such as food and pharmaceutical processing. The technology is also being tested in coal-fired power plants.

March 22nd is World Water Day. By continuing research into the occurrence, fate, and transport of emerging contaminants, as well as developing new methods for filtering water for reuse and helping companies to reduce their water use, ISTC ensures a future of clean water for all.  

A Very (Last-Minute) Sustainable Christmas

Are you a last-minute holiday gift shopper? Personally, I have a knack for waiting until the last possible second to take care of my yuletide errands, but I always (somehow) pull it off just in time. Wanting to incorporate sustainability into your holiday plans but afraid that there’s not enough time? You may have not factored sustainability into your holiday plans months in advance, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start now. Here are a few tips to have a very (last-minute) sustainable Christmas.    


Recycling is an easy way to make your Christmas festivities more sustainable. While plastic cellophane and metallic wrapping has to go to landfills, wrapping paper can be reused. When it’s time to open presents, take out a recycling bin. Make an effort to direct people to it after they’ve opened their gifts. If you have some over-excited present-openers that like to haphazardly rip and throw their scraps, resist the urge to toss it all. Pick it up at the end of the night and put into the bin. You’ll have a cleaner house and feel better about yourself.


While decorating the tree is a Christmas tradition, it’s hard to find time these days to take part. Don’t feel overwhelmed by the racks and racks of gaudy, expensive ornaments lining store shelves, each with more glitter than the next. You don’t need the most showy decorations to stand out. Instead, make creative ornaments from materials at home. It’ll give you the traditional display you want while also adding a unique, personal touch and saving some extra cash.

If you’re from Champaign-Urbana ,The IDEA Store is a great place to fulfill your last-minute eco-ornament needs.


Looking to spruce up your house before having guests over? Head to the store and buy some  some energy efficient LED or solar powered lights. They may be pricier, but they typically last longer, which means you’re covered for next year. Less electricity used, same festive impact. And, remember, while those twinkle lights may look pretty, flashing lights actually use more energy, so stick with traditional.

If you find yourself wanting to have a more sustainable Christmas with only a few days left on the calendar to do so, don’t fret. Like those last-minute gifts, sustainability is something that can still be achieved with days to spare. Pair these tips with our other suggestions for a sustainable holiday and you’ll be good to go. May your days be sustainable and waste-free, and may all your holidays be green.

Giving Tuesday

After the conspicuous consumption messages of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday provides an opportunity to think about how we can give back.  Vox has some tips to help you choose which charities to support. Resources like Charity Navigator, GiveWell, and GuideStar can help you determine how your money gets spent.

ISTC is working to combat the effects of consumerism by coming up with solutions to some of the world’s greatest environmental problems. This important work would not be possible without generous support from our funding organizations and supporters like you. Thank you!

Staying Green on Halloween

Ah, fall. The temperatures are dropping, pumpkins and spooky decorations adorn nearly every front porch, and Halloween is just around the corner. Holidays are a great opportunity to be more sustainable. In fact, the concept of an eco-friendly Halloween isn’t new. Bellevue, Washington mom Corey Colwell-Lipson founded the Green Halloween initiative in 2006. But how do you decide where to start?  

The World Wildlife Organization has several tips on keeping your Halloween festive, yet environmentally-friendly.

  1. Start by making your own costumes. Instead of going for the big-box, chain costume retailers, go local. Get your outfits from second hand stores or yard sales. Check out the Idea Store at their new location at Lincoln Square in Urbana for supplies. You can even give your costume a green theme. If DIY isn’t your thing, organize a costume swap and repurpose a friend’s old costume. You could even repeat some outfits from years past. Trust me, no one is going to remember that you went as a police officer three years ago. Save yourself the extra money and wear it again.
  2. When it comes to parties, make sure there’s as little waste as possible. Use reusable dishes. Put labels on your guest’s drinks so they’re encouraged to stick with one cup instead of unnecessarily wasting several. Maybe setting a good sustainability example will encourage them to make some changes as well.
  3. Use households items to collect candy when you take the kids trick-or-treating. Replace plastic bags with buckets, reusable “guilt-free” grocery store bags, even pillowcases. This is an opportunity to get creative. For example, make a craft project out of decorating plain pillowcases to use as trick-or-treat bags.

These aren’t the only ways to have a more sustainable Halloween. From buying pumpkins at local farmer’s markets to reducing carbon emissions by walking instead of driving, the room for eco-friendly holiday improvement is limitless.

So kick back in your chair, pop a Kit-Kat or five, turn on a scary movie, and remember that sustainability isn’t always the big, time-consuming projects, but the small, day-to-day changes a person makes to show that they care. Help put the “green” in Halloween.  

New ISTC Annual Report Now Available

ISTC’s annual report for the period July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018 is now available.  The report features ISTC’s technical and research efforts during the period. Highlights include ISTC’s success with winning awards for all five of the DOE grant applications that our researchers submitted in fall 2017. The report also details new initiatives such as solar panel recycling and free assessments for wastewater treatment plants to reduce operating costs. With these efforts, ISTC continues to advance sustainability in Illinois and beyond. Check out the report for more details.

Gender Equality and Sustainability

In Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn wrote, “Women hold up half the sky”. In addition, women also manage half the soil, carry more than half the water, and raise more than half of the world’s population.Image result for women carrying water

Women’s Equality Day, (August 26) celebrates the Nineteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which gave women the right to vote. The day also serves as a reminder of how much work still needs to be done. This makes it a perfect time to reflect on women’s role in sustainability, understand the way that women are disproportionately affected by environmental disasters, and improve environmental sustainability by focusing on gender equality.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals were established in 2015 to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. They also recognized gender equality as a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. Furthermore, the UN 2030 Agenda states, “The achievement of full human potential and of sustainable development is not possible if one half of humanity continues to be denied its full human rights and opportunities. Women and girls must enjoy equal access to quality education, economic resources and political participation as well as equal opportunities with men and boys for employment, leadership and decision making at all levels.”Image result for women in science lab

Women play a crucial role in environmental sustainability. They produce 50 percent of agricultural output in Asia and represent nearly 80 percent of the agricultural labor force in parts of Africa. If women had the same access as men to agricultural resources, production would increase by 20-30 percent, and has the potential to reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12-17 percent, according to research by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

Women face different types of discrimination depending on where they live. This gender disparity has led to ineffective and unsustainable management of ecosystems and resources worldwide. Moving forward, men and women need to be included in decision making, especially with regard to natural resource management. We have come far since the Nineteenth Amendment was adopted in 1920, but we still haven’t achieved gender equality. Supporting and empowering the women and girls in your life is a great way to work toward sustainability.  

Tools for alternatives assessment

One way that manufacturers can reduce their environmental impact is by replacing a toxic or hazardous process chemical with a less hazardous or non-hazardous one. The following resources are useful when trying to identify less toxic alternatives.
SUBSPORT: Substitution Support Portal

SUBSPORT is a free-of-charge, multilingual platform for information exchange on alternative substances and technologies, as well as tools and guidance for substance evaluation and substitution management. It includes:

Program for Assisting the Replacement of Industrial Solvents (PARIS III)

PARIS III, developed by U.S. EPA, is a desktop/laptop application that allows users to find mixtures of solvents with specific physical and chemical properties that also have relatively low environmental impacts. The software helps users find replacements for solvent mixtures that are currently being used in industrial processes but have dangerous environmental side effects. The software can also be used to find solvents with lower environmental impact when designing new industrial processes, as well as more benign solvents that can be added to harmful solvents favored by industry to help reduce the harmful environmental impact of their processes.
CleanerSolutions Database

The CleanerSolutions Database, developed by the Toxics Use Reduction Institute, helps users select an alternative cleaner that meets their needs. The information is based on lab testing done by TURI. Use the tool to find a cleaner for a particular contaminant; replace a solvent; identify products based on safety and environmental criteria; and search by vendor information.
P2OASys Tool to Compare Materials

Sometimes changing chemicals or processes can have unintended environmental and health impacts. TURI’s P2OASys is an Excel based tool that allows companies to assess the potential environmental, worker, and public health impacts of alternative technologies aimed at reducing toxics use. The goal is more comprehensive and systematic thinking about the potential hazards posed by current and alternative processes identified during the TUR planning process. The tool can help companies:

  • Systematically examine the potential environmental and worker impacts of options, examining the total impacts of process changes, rather than simply those of chemical changes
  • Compare options with current processes based on quantitative and qualitative factors.

Chemical Hazard Assessment Database

The Interstate Chemicals Clearinghouse (IC2) Chemical Hazard Assessment Database enables users to search for GreenScreen® and Quick Chemical Assessment Tool (QCAT) assessments. The purpose of this tool is to promote awareness of assessments conducted on chemicals of high concern, facilitate transparency and discussion, and reduce duplication of effort. IC2 also has alternatives assessment resources, including a guide and links to other assessment materials.
Safer Chemical Ingredients List

The Safer Chemical Ingredients List (SCIL) is a list of chemical ingredients, arranged by functional-use class, that U.S. EPA’s Safer Choice Program has evaluated and determined to be safer than traditional chemical ingredients. This list is designed to help manufacturers find safer chemical alternatives that meet the criteria of the Safer Choice Program. Safer Choice also has other resources available for manufacturers.
Environmental, Health and Safety Data Resources

Although chemical manufacturers provide material safety data sheets with their chemicals, sometimes this information isn’t enough. TURI’s librarian created this guide to assist in researching environmental, health and safety information for chemicals.