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Prairie Research Institution

Year Submitted: 2014

Process: Waste Reduction

Industry: Laboratory

Location: Champaign IL

No. of employees: 45

Contact: Deb Jacobson


Founded in 1985, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) has helped thousands of organizations and citizens implement sustainable solutions to environmental and economic challenges. ISTCs mission is to encourage and assist citizens and businesses to prevent pollution and reduce waste to protect human health and the environment in Illinois and beyond. ISTCs vision is to be a catalyst for change toward more sustainable technologies, processes, and practices through our integrated program of research, demonstration projects, technical assistance, and communication.

The purposes of creating, implementing, testing, and refining a pilot Zero Waste program at ISTC was to investigate the feasibility of moving towards a Zero Waste lab. The primary objective was to explore the waste diversion activities of the Champaign office, with the aim of better practicing what we preach. The secondary objective was to provide the facility with an accurate and precise measurement of our landfill diversion rate.

P2 Application:


The waste characterization process is part of the ISTC Zero Waste Program services. In most cases it is used to provide baseline metrics and to direct recommendations and policies towards key materials that have the greatest impact. The waste characterization involves a complete mapping of the current material management system at a facility, followed by a hands-on waste audit of all the discarded materials. This allows our team of technical assistance engineers to recommend and help implement process changes to improve the entire material management system of the facility. This also establishes a benchmark to measure the success of education, outreach and other actions to improve recycling and reduce the volume of waste material generated. The study was designed to capture a weeklong material generation profile for the building. All samples were hand sorted into eleven material categories (results summarized on the next page)


The Zero Waste team set out to make sure that recycling opportunities were both widely available and clearly communicated to staff throughout the building. The team removed desk-side garbage bins and created clustered disposal stations through the office, with different recycling and landfill receptacles available at each.

Each recycling station was outfitted with large and clear signage with photographic images of container types. The signage addressed items that commonly confuse people at the recycling bin, such as bottle caps and plastic clamshell food containers.


The baseline waste characterization showed that close to 10 percent of ISTCs landfilled waste stream consisted of laboratory gloves. Being a research facility with multiple laboratory facilities and with researchers working throughout the year, gloves are a constant and voluminous part of our discards. The Zero Waste team researched and identified a vendor that collects nitrile lab gloves and recycles them into mixed plastic structures such as park benches and road barriers. Purple bins, matching the color of the gloves, were placed throughout the ISTC labs and offices and have become a very recognizable sign of our quest for zero waste!


Other Zero Waste efforts being implemented at the ISTC Headquarters include:

  • Water refill stations

  • Reusable dishes

  • Battery & cell phone recycling

  • Automated paper towel dispensers

  • Comments:

Details of Reductions

  • 3,000.0 - kilogram of   CO2 Equivalents
  • 400.0 - lbs of   Waste

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The Zero Waste Network is one of eight Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange P2RxCenters , serving as a national network of regional information centers: NEWMOA (Northeast), WRRC (Southeast), GLRPPR (Great Lakes), ZeroWasteNet (Southwest), P2RIC (Plains), Peaks to Prairies (Mountain), WSPPN (Pacific Southwest), PPRC (Northwest). We are a proud member of the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable.

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