Day: April 1, 2020

ISTC provides technical assistance from a distance

By Joy Scrogum

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) Technical Assistance Program (TAP) at the University of Illinois makes companies and communities more competitive and resilient with sustainable business practices, technologies, and solutions. TAP works at the intersection of industry, science and government to help clients achieve profitable, sustainable results.

In service to the State of Illinois, ISTC provides all Illinois organizations, businesses, manufacturing facilities, institutions and governments the opportunity for one free site visit and sustainability assessment from TAP. However, in light of the Governor’s stay-at-home order and restrictions on non-essential travel for University personnel as we face the COVID-19 pandemic, TAP staff members are currently not conducting in-person site visits.

But this does not mean that we are not still here to serve you. Our staff members are working remotely, and are available to help your business or community with:

  • Answers to questions related to waste reduction, water and energy efficiency and conservation
  • Guidance on institutional water treatment, particularly given recent changes to building use patterns
  • Greening your supply chain
  • Sustainability visioning, goal setting, planning and communication with stakeholders
  • Information on alternative technologies and processes to reduce resource consumption, hazardous material use, and emissions
  • General recommendations for process improvement, which can increase your productivity while reducing your negative environmental footprint

Learn more about TAP services and impacts on the ISTC web site. If you are interested in scheduling a site visit in the future, when travel restrictions have been lifted, fill out our form to request a site visit.  Questions can also be directed to, to receive immediate assistance.

Subscribe to our monthly e-mail newsletter on sustainability for food and beverage manufacturers and to ISTC’s quarterly newsletter to stay up-to-date on current activities.

You can also keep up to date on TAP projects and services, case studies, and guidance by subscribing to the ISTC blog (look for the “subscribe” box for email input on the main blog page) or exploring the blog’s Technical Assistance category. Our web site also provides a list of fact sheets, case studies and other publications which may provide inspiration for your efforts. In the coming months, TAP will also be developing a new web site to more fully describe recent projects, successes, and services; this will be linked to directly from the main ISTC web site. Be on the lookout for it!

Finally, on April 9th, at 12 PM Central, we invite you to join us for a webinar, Ann Arbor Summer Festival (A2SF) Festival Footprint: Going Zero Waste. Learn more and register here. If it inspires you to pursue zero waste at your facility or in your community, we’d love to discuss opportunities and ideas with you! Reach out to our zero waste team at  If you want to receive notifications of future webinars from ISTC, you can sign up here.

Stay safe and know that we are here to support your organization’s sustainability efforts during this difficult time.

Plastic Wars: Industry Spent Millions Selling Recycling — To Sell More Plastic

Read the full story from NPR.

For decades, Americans have been sorting their trash believing that most plastic could be recycled. But the truth is, the vast majority of all plastic produced can’t be or won’t be recycled. In 40 years, less than 10% of plastic has ever been recycled.

In a joint investigation, NPR and the PBS series Frontline found that oil and gas companies — the makers of plastic — have known that all along, even as they spent millions of dollars telling the American public the opposite.

California Pushes for Solar Panel Waste Policy

Read the full story at Waste360.

For now, PV modules are considered hazardous waste, unless proven otherwise through time- and money-consuming processes.

Neighbors worried about pollution from troubled North Side scrap shredder during pandemic

Read the full story in the Chicago Tribune.

Much of Chicago is shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, but a North Side company with a long history of pollution problems is still shredding flattened cars, twisted rebar and used appliances every day.

Neighbors are livid.

They have been complaining for years about metallic odors from General Iron Industries, a scrap yard sandwiched between the densely populated Bucktown and Lincoln Park neighborhoods. With Chicagoans under orders to stay home until at least April 7, many are worried their exposure to air pollution could make people more susceptible to a dangerous coronavirus that attacks the lungs and upper-respiratory tract.

Food waste and food insecurity rising amid coronavirus panic

Read the full story in National Geographic.

Nervous consumers hoard groceries and restaurants go take-out, while unemployment skyrockets and food pantries suffer. But solutions exist.

COVID-19 will slow the global shift to renewable energy, but can’t stop it

Read the full story at The Conversation.

The renewable energy industry, which until recently was projected to enjoy rapid growth, has run into stiff headwinds as a result of three era-defining events: the COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting global financial contraction and a collapse in oil prices. These are interrelated, mutually reinforcing events.

It’s much too early to be able to assess how large their economic, environmental and policy impacts will be. But as someone who has worked on energy policy in academiathe industry, the federal government and Wall Street, I expect a significant short-run contraction followed by a catch-up period over the next few years that returns us to the same long-term path – perhaps even a better one.

Is Upcycled Food the Answer?

Read the full story and listen to the podcast at Waste360.

In our latest episode of NothingWasted! Podcast, we chat with Turner Wyatt, CEO of the Upcycled Food Association (and a 2020 Waste360 40 Under 40 award winner). The Upcycled Food Association aims to eliminate food waste by increasing the size of the upcycled food economy.

We spoke with Wyatt about sustainable solutions to food waste, addressing policy barriers, how upcycled food is potentially an even bigger opportunity than organics and more.

Coronavirus Pandemic Spawns Many Stories on Environment Beat

Read the full SEJ Issue Backgrounder.

For journalists reporting about coronavirus/COVID-19, the main story — the reason it is top news — is the viral pandemic that is killing people all over the world. That said, COVID-19, along with its causes and consequences, is also a major story for the environment and energy beats. 

Journalists of all flavors have been busy writing about that. And you can, too. But your audience will be well served if you don’t stretch the environment and energy connection too far just to tag along on a top story.

Still, many journalists have drawn connections between the COVID-19 story and the other big environment story, climate. The important links involve collective denial of a looming public disaster and failure to take effective action in time to minimize and respond to it.

Scientists transform ultra-tough pollen into flexible material

Read the full story from Nanyang Technological University.

Scientists have found a way to turn pollen, one of the hardest materials in the plant kingdom, into a soft and flexible material, with the potential to serve as ‘building blocks’ for the design of new categories of eco-friendly materials. They used a simple chemical process akin to conventional soap-making to turn pollen grains from sunflowers into soft microgel particles that respond to various stimuli.

Small-scale organics recyclers struggle amid coronavirus pandemic

Read the full story in Waste Dive.

New York City and San Francisco are including curbside organics collection among essential public services. But fallout from COVID-19 has meant dramatic changes for small-scale composters.

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