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Earth Day 2020 may be in the past, but UIC is still using the momentum of the day to continue to push for a Plastic-Free UIC!

From the food we eat to the packaging our vendors use, UIC makes strides every day toward minimizing the amount of garbage we send to the landfill.

Though UIC sends almost half of all our trash to recycling or compost, we still have work to do to reach our Zero Waste goal, especially when it comes to the disposable, single-use plastics that are still widely used and distributed on our campus every day.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we showed support for a Plastic Free UIC by wearing red on April 22, participated in a virtual "clean up," watched the film The Story of Plastic and discussed UIC's role in the plastic problem, and advocated for a plastic free campus both online and out loud!

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UIC's Plastic Waste Heading link

UIC's Plastic Waste: 2020 Stats. In partnership with the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, the University of Illinois at Chicago conducted a 2019 waste audit to track its waste and develop solutions. We found that annually, the UIC community throws

In 2019, we hosted a waste audit conducted by the ISTC and found that there is a lot of single-use plastic thrown out on campus.

UIC’S EARTH DAY 2020 WRAP-UP. UIC honored the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22nd by: • Wearing red to show support for a plastic-free UIC • Participating in a virtual “clean-up”1. VIRTUAL CLEAN-UP: We became citizen scientists and documented the trash we saw around our homes.  Data will be used to tell the story of trash and plastic pollution so we can demand change for zero-waste policies both on campus and in the broader Chicago community. Litterati Data: 2289 piece documented, 44% of total material tags was plastic, top 3 brands 1. McDonalds, 2. Newport, 3. Dunkin Donuts. Participants in our clean up: 47 students, 7 faculty, 7 staff/ 2. ZERO-WASTE POLICY: The Office of Planning, Sustainability, and Project Management provided a Zero-Waste Toolkit and is asking that all employees and students commit to changes to permanently reduce the amount of plastic used in our daily campus lives. PARTICIPANTS SIGNED UP to develop a zero-waste policy for their organization: 6 students, 6 employees.   3. EARTH DAY DISCUSSION: On April 22, 2020 UIC staff, faculty, students and other community members came together virtually to discuss the film The Story of Plastic, what steps UIC can take to reduce plastic pollution on campus, and to develop a Zero-Waste policy for departments, student organizations, and residence halls at UIC. 102 Participants. Common Question: How can we effectively curb plastic pollution in our community?

UIC’s current waste diversion rate is 47%, which means that 47% of the trash collected from campus goes to a recycling or compost facility. And, while our student enrollment rate continues to rise, our total campus waste continues to decline, thanks to national awareness campaigns on recycling and single use products, as well as the hard work of UIC sustainability champions.

However, while using recyclable plastic is a step in the right direction, plastic is still an oil-based product that never goes away. In fact, most plastics are only recycled one time before they reach the landfill, due to the quality of the plastic getting lower and lower with each recycle.



This Earth Day, we encouraged the UIC community – wherever we were –  to wear red instead of green in honor of this year’s Earth Day. Besides showing some UIC-colored pride for the Zero Waste accomplishments we’ve made so far, we’re sounding the alarm on the climate crisis. With just under 10 years to make the vital, systemic changes to our culture and our economy outlined by the IPCC, it’s imperative that our vendors, our university leadership, and the city of Chicago understands just how important these issues are to the UIC community.


Earth Day wasn’t always simply a day to celebrate the beauty of our planet; in the beginning, Earth Day was designed to be a day of action. In lieu of a physical campus clean up, we became citizen scientists in  a virtual “clean up,” watched The Story of Plastic with a panel discussion, and  began to develop a zero-waste policy for UIC departments, units, student organizations, or residence halls.


On behalf of the Office of Planning, Sustainability and Project Management and all our UIC sustainability partners, happy Earth Day. We hope you’ll join us in advocating for a campus that is sustainable, equitable, and plastic-free.

UIC has pledged to address the challenges and opportunities facing all Great Cities of the 21st century, which includes our generation’s plastic problem.

Did you know... Heading link

  • 47 % of UIC's trash is diverted from landfill and is instead sent to recycling or compost annually.

  • 7 tons of non-recyclable plastic get thrown out at Student Center East each month on average.

  • 9 % of residential waste is recycled in Chicago (that's one of the worst recycling rates in the country).

The first Earth Day at UIC Heading link

Chicago Illini  Newspaper, April 20, 1970 (UIC University  Library)

On the first Earth Day in 1970, UIC (then called “University of Illinois Circle Campus”) celebrated with a environmental teach-in about the “environmental crisis brought about by pollution” lead by the group Help Stop Pollution UICC. Read an article from WTTW about a first-hand reflection of that day.

Earth Day 2020 Letter from the Chancellor, where are we today?

The Student Perspective: Climate Change and COVID Heading link

With this year’s Earth Day coinciding with a global pandemic, Basmah Nadeem, a sophomore at UIC and a student in the Sustainability Internship Program, writes about the relationship between COVID-19 and the climate crisis. Both crises will require massive participation from individuals, communities, governments, and the private sector in order to avert negative consequences.

Read Basmah's blog post here

other ways to take action #breakFREEfromplastic

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