Zero Waste Research Collaborations

F&S is adopting a "zero waste" approach based on the three sustainability principals; reduce, reuse, recycle. "Zero waste" aims to minimize recycling processes across the campus, reduce consumption, and ensure that that all products that are purchased or made on campus are classified as sustainable. The primary goal of this approach is to reduce greenhouse gases by reducing the amount of energy associated with the extracting, processing, and transporting raw materials and waste. This approach will hopefully reduce, and eventually eliminate, the need for landfills and incinerators. 

In collaboration with Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), F&S conducted multiple studies and projects to reach a 45% campus waste diversion in 2020. The "zero waste" endeavors started in 2014 and 2015 when F&S funded ISTC to conduct a study on the campus waste characterization involving facility-level waste characterizations for four buildings throughout the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The designated research was conducted to examine the composition and quantity of recyclable materials discarded and to evaluate the effectiveness of existing waste reduction and recycling programs. The study also provided metrics to measure the progress toward zero waste and identified opportunities for increased materials recovery. In 2015, TAP collaborated with F&S to retrofit existing refuse containers on the Main Quad, creating combined waste and recycling stations to improve the capture of recyclable materials. 

In 2018, another collaboration with ISTC resulted in the development of an online portal that allows waste transport station (WTS) members to track, quantify, and report materials moving through the system. This detailed analysis helped improve the whole waste management system's efficiency and data to inform potential outreach efforts and policy changes. Furthermore, F&S worked with TAP to document the number and variety of landfill and recyclable collection bins found in buildings across campus. As a result, a set of recommendations were identified regarding building construction and renovation standards for recycling space allocation, collection container allocation and upgrade, and the need to implement a campus-wide recycling campaign. New collection containers have been installed to classify and separate trash bins from mixed paper and aluminum cans and bottles using color-coding. F&S sees the deployment of the new containers as a critical factor in raising awareness of recycling opportunities and processes on campus and tackling persistent misconceptions about campus recycling practices.