The Waste Transfer Station (WTS) takes in about 50,000 pounds of trash each day combining sorted material and direct dump trash from laboratories and food facilities. Much of it though, like a water bottle or soda can, is recycled.
An Academic Collaboration
Two tour groups in July saw this firsthand: “Saving Face (Food, Agriculture, Construction, & Environment) Around the World. This group of 21 10th-12th graders come from around the world. This camp is run by the Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering (WYSE) Program by The Grainger College of Engineering; campers are interested in Agricultural & Biological Engineering (ABE).
ABE professor Luis Rodriguez thought up the tour idea. He also happens to be the Associate Director of Education & Outreach for the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE). He and other iSEE affiliates suggested tours in the sustainability realm.
So, after WTS campers headed to the Energy Farm, a 320-acre space managed by the College of ACES, and Solar Farm 2.0, where 12.3 megawatts (MWdc) energy is produced by 31,122 bi-facial panels.
The second camp was the ABE team from Discovering STEM in ACES Program (DSAP), part of the College of ACES. Seven high school students, mostly from Chicagoland, visited.
What’s Waste at WTS
Shawn Patterson, transportation manager, led the tour at WTS. Students saw sorting areas, and heard the process of sorting recyclables from material that must go to the landfill. The “source user” should find the appropriate place to dispose of their can, bottle, or other rubbish, Patterson said. Collection containers are found in heavily-trafficked facilities and transportation corridors.
Notably, plastic bottles and aluminum cans are recycled at a high rate, which not only benefits the environment, but brings in funds through the sale of those materials, according to Patterson.
Heavier industrial boxes and other packaging and shipping supplies are sorted, too.
One thing to watch: anything contaminated by food ingredients—think of the oil soaking through the bottom of a pizza box—must go to the landfill.
Sorting recyclables by F&S essential employees impacts strategic university goals and is one-of-a-kind for Big Ten and other peer schools.
To Tour F&S Facilities
Abbott Power Plant: https://go.fs.illinois.edu/Abbott-Tours
Solar Farms: https://go.fs.illinois.edu/SolarFarmTours