Waste Utilization

ISTC excels in finding new uses for waste materials. One of the standout examples of this commitment to resource recovery is its Mud-to-Parks program. High-quality agricultural topsoil had been washing off into the Illinois River for years, building up as sediment and making navigation increasingly difficult. Sediment dredged from the river to maintain the navigation channel would normally have been piled up along the bank, where it could easily wash back into the river. The cycle would have continued to waste time, money, fuel, and the sediment would have remained an underappreciated resource, but one ISTC researcher, Dr. John Marlin, and his colleagues in the Illinois Rivers 2020 group had a brilliant idea: bring the topsoil back to life in abandoned industrial areas and turn them into parks. And so, the Mud-to-Parks program was born.

By thinking outside the proverbial box, other ISTC researchers have contributed significantly to resource recovery in categories such as clean coal, plastic-to-fuel, and even developing batteries using rice husks, just to name a few.

Zero Waste, a category of resource recovery, is an approach to the way products and manufacturing materials are handled throughout their entire life cycle, forming a closed loop by using compostable or recyclable materials so that all elements are reused and nothing ends up in the landfill or incinerator. The concept takes its inspiration from natural systems, which infinitely cycle energy, carbon, nitrogen, and other nutrients from growth to decay. ISTC has a Technologies & Assistance Program (TAP) with experts in practical applications of their branded Zero Waste Illinois. These staff members help companies and organizations assess their waste issues and come up with simple solutions that nearly always save the companies and organizations money, as well as saving our precious natural resources.