Celebrate International Compost Awareness Week May 5-11, 2024

Poster for ICAW 2024, showing an illustration of a compost bin in an outdoor scene. The Earth is cradled among the compost in the bin and the bin is labelled "Nature's Climate Champion."

International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW) is celebrated annually during the first full week of May and is a time to learn more about composting organic wastes (e.g. landscape wastes and food scraps) as part of fostering healthier soil and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), food waste is the “most common material sent to landfills nationwide, comprising 24.1 percent of municipal solid waste. When yard trimmings, wood and paper/paperboard are added to food, these organic materials comprise 51.4 percent of municipal solid waste in landfills.” Within landfills, organic materials decompose without the presence of oxygen (anaerobically), resulting in the generation of methane, which is a potent GHG. Reducing the generation of organic wastes and composting them when their generation can’t be avoided are important strategies for combating climate change. Hence the theme of this year’s ICAW: “COMPOST…Nature’s Climate Champion!”

According to the Compost Research & Education Foundation, this year’s theme highlights the role compost plays in fighting climate change. Besides reducing methane generation associated with landfilling organics, returning composted material to the soil ‘serves as a “carbon bank,” helping to store carbon thereby removing it from the atmosphere.’ Enriching soil with compost also reduces the use of synthetic fertilizers, thereby reducing the emissions associated with fertilizer manufacturing. Using compost can also increase our resilience to climate change impacts such as drought or extreme weather. For example, compost increases the capacity of soil to retain moisture, and compost makes soil more resistant to erosion by improving water infiltration, binding soil particles together, and slowing the flow of water through the soil. Thus, stormwater runoff is decreased.

For a list of in-person and virtual events to learn more about and celebrate composting, check out the Illinois Food Scrap & Composting Coalition (IFSCC) ICAW 2024 web page. New events are being added to the page daily, so check back often. If your organization is hosting a relevant event that you’d like to see promoted via IFSCC, submit information via this online form.

For information on getting started with home composting, check out the University of Illinois Extension Composting web pages. Extension also has great information on vermicomposting (using worms to process your organic waste), compost bins, troubleshooting, and answers to common questions.

For suggested children’s books related to composting and soil health, see the IFSCC’s curated list.

The IFSCC website also provides composting information for local governments and a recognition program for organizations and businesses that compost (on-site or via commercial composting services). You can also search for compost pick-up and processing services (available in limited areas of IL).

Happy composting!

Sen. Durbin Backs Research to Capture More Carbon from Coal Plants

Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) toured the Abbott Power Plant at the University of Illinois on Jan. 15 for a briefing on Prairie Research Institute (PRI) research to develop next-generation carbon capture technology.

PRI has just released an informative video introduction to the work underway at the Abbott Power Plant.

Durbin featured in project video
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin spoke about the carbon capture research following a tour of the University of Illinois’ Abbott Power Plant.

The first-hand look at the project was an “eye opener,” Durbin said. If selected for the federally funded project, the technology would economically extract at least 90 percent of the carbon dioxide following an Abbott Power Plant retrofit. The ramifications for coal-rich Illinois – for jobs, the economy, and keeping utility rates low – could be profound.

“What’s going on here at the Abbott Power Plant is an effort to show that there is an environmentally responsible way to deal with the sources of energy whether they’re coal, natural gas, or oil,” Durbin said after the tour. “We’re working with the university, and the power plant, on an application for a Department of Energy research effort; and their goal, of course, is to take even more of the emissions and turn the pollution into profits and make certain that it doesn’t at least harm the environment in serious ways.”

For many nations around the world where coal is likely to remain the fuel of choice well into this century, the new technology could be a game changer in the challenge to limit global warming. The project includes expert advisory panel representing some of the largest power producers around the world, including China, India, and Brazil, said Kevin O’Brien, director of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and primary investigator for the project.

“We’re living in an era of dramatic change,” Durbin said. “Ten years ago we depended on OPEC oil. Now we’re talking very seriously about climate change and the need to reduce emissions.”

Senator Durbin was Supportive of the research on carbon captureHe praised the efforts at the University for keeping the more than 70-year-old plant at the forefront of efficient and effective technologies to deliver both steam and electric power to students and staff. “It still serves the campus today,” Durbin remarked. “The good news is that over the years there have been some dramatic efforts to modernize this plant and to make sure that it not only meets the standards but goes beyond, and sets the standard for new technology and new energy development.”

“So it was good to see this first hand today — to be educated. I will tell you that it came as an eye opener to me.  The steam generation and how important it is to the University of Illinois and also very important to generate the kind of electricity that sustains a modern campus in the 21st century.”

The project would put Abbott well beyond existing standards for emissions control. Abbott’s current pollution control technology, consisting of a combination of electrostatic precipitators and a flue gas desulfurization unit (scrubber), remains the “best available control technology” for removing pollutants from the byproducts of coal combustion.

The carbon capture research project also will look ahead to developing new uses for waste carbon dioxide. The project seeks partners interested in forming and building the overall “value chain” for captured CO2 – including members/ suppliers to the coal and power industry, and current and potential end-users of CO2. To learn more about the opportunity, call +1 (630) 472-5016.