The seemingly small decisions we make everyday have profound impacts on the Earth and determine what resources will be available to future generations. Green Heroes are people who make a positive difference. They don't always get the credit they deserve, but they strive to make our planet a better place to live. The Office of Sustainability would like to introduce you to some of the Green Heroes living in our community.
If you would like to nominate a Green Hero, please contact us.
The year was 1987. In just a few hours on the Quad, members of Students for Environmental Concerns (SECS) got over 2,000 signatures on a petition to encourage campus leaders to start a recycling program at the University of Illinois. Campus leaders agreed it was a good idea, and an advisory task force of students, faculty and staff was given the charge to study what it would take to set up a campus-wide recycling program. After reviewing the task force's 170-page report, campus leaders approved approximately $650,000 to start a recycling program, which was to be set up over a 5-year period. Grants from various state agencies contributed the other resources needed to cover the final $1 million price tag.
Tim Hoss, with a lot of help from students, was able to get a recycling program that serviced over 200 buildings on campus operational in about two years. And since 1989, Tim Hoss, Coordinator of Campus Waste Management, operated a comprehensive recycling program at the University. In 1995, $1.3 million was spent on a material processing addition to the Waste Transfer Station (WTS). When it opened in November 1997, the University's Material Recovery Facility was one of the first state-of-the-art recycling-sorting facilities on a university campus in the nation.
Fast forward to 2010. Everyday two trucks from the WTS collect waste paper, and another truck collects cardboard twice daily from around campus. Recovering recyclable material from the University's waste stream is no small job. The WTS collects waste from thousands of recycling bins and 250 dumpsters. Except for the waste from University Housing (which runs its own program), all waste on campus comes to the WTS. Once back at the recovery facility, all of the material gets sorted: equipment, construction waste, and non-recyclable materials are removed. Recyclable materials such as cardboard, paper, aluminum, and plastics are all sorted out and placed into storage bunkers. Tim is quick to point out that it takes a team of people to get the job done including: 5 drivers, 2 operating engineers, 4 laborers, and 6 workers from the Developmental Services Center in Champaign who help with the sorting.
Once sorted, the materials are compressed into large bales and sold. The WTS generated about $500,000 in revenue during fiscal year 2008, and saved the University over $200,000 in landfill costs. In 2008, the WTS recycled: 838 tons of cardboard, 1,236 tons of paper, 21 tons of plastic, 41 tons of aluminum, 625 tons of scrap metal, and 325 tons of pallets. Through these efforts, the University diverted 48.8% of our waste stream from landfills.
Tim retired from the University in January 2010. But he still has great ideas for how the University can continue to lessen its impact on the environment. When asked what he'd like to see happen in future recycling efforts on campus he had two ideas:
1) Start a comprehensive organic waste management program, and
2) Restructure the way that surplus equipment is disposed.
Tim Hoss made a tremendous positive impact while he was here at the University, and so we are happy to recognize him as our first Green Hero. Tim certainly did his part to make our campus a Greener place. And you can too. Consume less. Recycle more.