Office of Risk Management

Student Research Projects

2012 Reports

Leaching Characteristics of Recycled Asphalt Pavement Used as Unbound Road Base
Student Investigators: Ryan F. Shedivy and Amara Meier, UW-Madison
Advisors: Tuncer B. Edil, James M. Tinjum, and Craig H. Benson
Recycled asphalt pavement has great potential to be used as a substitute for natural aggregate in roadways. When used as an unbound base course though, it has the potential to leach poly-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heavy metals because it contains bituminous asphalt. This study investigated the potential leaching of these components using batch leaching tests. The batch leaching tests were carried out according to the US EPA’s toxicity characteristic leaching procedure (TCLP) and both deionized water and TCLP fluid were used as the leaching solution. The results from the batch leaching tests for both deionized water and TCLP fluid showed that pollutant concentrations were low for the heavy metals and PAHs studied. The pH and electrical conductivities of the leachate were lower when using TCLP fluid than when using deionized water.

Leaching Characteristics of Recycled Aggregate Used as Road Base
Student Investigators: Jiannan Chen and Brigitte Brown, UW-Madison
Advisors: Tuncer B. Edil and James Tinjum
The use of recycled concrete aggregate (RCA) as a road base has lowered costs of road construction while preserving virgin aggregate resources. Laboratory column leach tests have shown that leachate produced by RCA is persistently highly alkaline, potentially threatening groundwater quality. However, field-monitoring studies of RCA road base have not produced similar alkaline leachates. Both field and laboratory methods were employed to further study, compare, and predict leaching characteristics of RCA as a road base. This study produced first flush field data to determine the initial leaching characteristics of RCA. Congruent laboratory tests were also run to compare with field data. This study will provide the data necessary to predict environmental impacts associated with the uses of RCA as a road base in road construction.

The Effects of Storage on the Quality of Vermicompost
Student Investigator: Andy Kiefer, UW-Stevens Point
Advisor: Dr. Jonathan Rivin
Fresh vermicompost was stored for three months and chemical and physical characteristics were measured during this time interval. Different aged vermicompost was used as a soil amendment in container media to assess plant response to changes in vermicompost quality during storage. To examine the plant response, growth characteristics were measured and a chemical analysis of the plant tissue was completed. Three different vermicompost varieties, in age and feedstock, were used. The vermicompost was procured from Wisconsin vermicompost producers and stored at room temperature. During storage, some changes to vermicompost characteristics did occur. Microbial activity, nitrification and precipitation had the largest effects on the concentrations of nutrients. Overall it appeared the age of vermicompost had little to no effect onto early plant growth.

Polylactic Acid Cups versus Paper Cups: A Composting Efficiency Comparison
Student Investigator: Sarah Kogler, UW-Stevens Point
Advisor: Dr. R. Michitsch
The intent of this experiment was to evaluate the composting efficiency of polylactic acid (PLA) cups in a controlled environment by taking weight measurements and visual observations. The composting efficiency of paper cups was evaluated in the same fashion. Overall, the efficiency of composting PLA was successful. The efficiency of composting paper cups was not successful. If paper cups were to be considered as a compostable alternative to PLA for UWSP Dining Services, actual compostable paper cups would need to be purchased. Information from this study will be accessible to the UWSP Sustainability Task Force for future purchasing and waste management decision making.

Recycling Metal Chips from Manufacturing Industry through a Combined Hydrodynamic and Electromagnetic Separation Approach
Student Investigator: Qiang Zhai, UW-Milwaukee
Advisor: Chris Yuan
Metal chips waste from the manufacturing industry is a significant environmental and economic concern. As iron is the most commonly used metal in the manufacturing industry, this study combined electromagnetic and hydrodynamic approach as a low-cost process to separate ferrous metal chips from non-ferrous metal chips. Metal chips from our industrial partner, Briggs and Stratton, were sampled, analyzed and experimentally tested for their multiphase flow behavior in a combined hydrodynamic and electromagnetic field. The separation of the ferrous from non-ferrous metal chips was investigated at different process parameters, including various water flow speeds, electromagnetic field strength, etc. The results demonstrate that the separation efficiency of ferrous from non-ferrous metal chips can be as high as 40-60%. The the separation efficiency can be quite stable as long as the electromagnetic field supplies sufficiently large electromagnetic field strength. The energy cost analysis of the proposed approach was analyzed preliminarily in this work. In the analysis of the separated ferrous chips per $1000 electricity consumption, the energy consumption is analyzed on the electricity consumed in the electromagnetic field for separating the ferrous and non-ferrous metal chips.

2011 Reports

Recycled Asphalt Shingles Mixed with Granular Byproducts as Structural Fills
Student Investigator: Ali Soleimanbeigi, UW-Madison
Advisors: Tuncer B. Edil and Craig H. Benson
In this study, recycled asphalt shingles (RAS) were evaluated for potential use as structural fill in highway embankments or backfills behind retaining walls. Bottom ash (BA) and foundry slag (FS) were also investigated as additives to recycled asphalt shingles (RAS) to enhance its mechanical properties. The engineering properties of RAS:BA/FS mixtures including compaction characteristics, hydraulic conductivity, compressibility, shear strength, and coefficient of lateral earth pressure at rest were evaluated in a systematic manner. Results show that addition of bottom ash and foundry slag significantly reduces compressibility of RAS while increasing drainage capacity and shear strength. RAS:BA/FS mixtures are favorable light weight material for use as embankment fills or backfill behind retaining walls.

Disposal and Recycling Rates of E-waste for Northeastern Wisconsin Businesses and Institutions
Student Investigator: Korin Franklin, UW-Oshkosh
Advisor: James Feldman
The purpose of this study was to determine current Wisconsin business and institutional electronic waste awareness levels and disposal practices.  The State of Wisconsin has taken steps to reduce the amount of unwanted or obsolete electronics being sent to landfills; some businesses, however, continue sending their e-waste to landfills.  The existence of various barriers combined with the lack of awareness regarding electronic waste issues prevents some Wisconsin businesses/institutions from properly disposing of obsolete or unwanted electronics.  Statewide e-waste practices were assessed through a combination of an online survey and targeted benchmarking research, as well as through site visits and interviews with key e-waste recycling stakeholders.  This research has identified certain types of businesses that may be less inclined to follow e-waste regulations because of various barriers.  Small firms within the service, retail, manufacturing, construction, and non-profit industries, located in the Southeast, Southwest, and East Central regions of Wisconsin, have a lower level of awareness and understanding of e-waste issues and regulations.  In conclusion, more awareness of e-waste and better understanding of Wisconsin regulations are needed.  This could be done more effectively by segmenting businesses and institutions into categories such as the size, location, and industry. 

Biochemical Methane Potential of Municipal Solid Waste and Biosolids
Student Investigator: Nikki Mohapp, UW-Madison
Advisors: Katherine D. McMahon and Georgia Wolfe
This research project aimed to quantify the ultimate methane potential of biosolids from anaerobic digesters treating wastewater and cow manure, as well as different organic waste fractions comprising typical U.S. municipal solid waste (MSW). The solids and volatile solids composition of the biosolids and waste fractions were measured and biochemical methane potential assays were run on each in triplicate. The wastewater digester biosolids had a higher volatile solids content than the cow manure digester biosolids, though the cow manure had a higher total solids content. The wastewater digester biosolids had a biochemical methane potential of 8.5 ± 1.34 mL of methane per dry gram, while the cow manure digester biosolids had a biochemical methane potential of 5.13 ± 1.81 mL methane per dry gram, reflecting its lower volatile solids content. The ultimate methane yields of the various waste fractions were much lower than anticipated, possibly due to overloading of the assays.

Plant Nutritive Value of Composted Polyactic Acid-Based Dinnerware
Student Investigator: Waneta Kratz, UW-Stevens Point
Advisor: Rob Michitsch
The primary objective of this study was to evaluate (from a plant-fertility standpoint) the growth response and mineral nutrient status of plants grown in soil amended with compost containing degraded PLA food service ware. The study found that from a nutritive and growth response status, the presence of PLA in the compost treatments did not negatively impact the plants.

Assessing the Effectiveness of Wisconsin Recycling Market Development Efforts
Student Investigator: Paula Olig, UW-Green Bay
Advisor: John Katers
Since 1989, Wisconsin has distributed over 516 awards for over $36.4 million to recycling research and development projects. The majority of the awards were given as grants, with loans making up only 6.8%. The major material categories funded include construction & demolition, education, industry and plastic. These markets have continued to expand and improve since 1989, with increased recycling rates and citizen knowledge.The effectiveness of recycling market development efforts can be assessed, in part, from the number of entities that received funding and are still using or expanding operations associated with the funded equipment, process or analysis. Of the 385 RMDB and WWRDG awards received by 246 entities, 70.7% are still viable today. This not only includes businesses which provide employment opportunities, it also includes government agencies and non-profit organizations which provide citizens with enhanced recycling opportunities and lower cost for recycling

Pre-Consumer Food Waste Diversion at Monona Terrace
Student Investigator: Lea Zeise, UW-Madison
Advisor: Joe Van Rossum
The establishment of a pre-consumer food waste composting project at Monona Terrace was a great success. Due to a special set of circumstances, diverting pre-consumer food waste from the landfill to an off-site composting project reduced waste management costs, avoided methane production, and empowered the staff of Monona Terrace.

After only nine months of implementation, the project has diverted 11.4 tons of food scraps that saved $1,473 and avoided 9.7 tons of CO2 equivalent. The analysis revealed that for each pound of food transported to a composting facility, emissions from transportation will be offset by methane avoidance if the site is within 0.1 miles. This assumes a diesel truck with a fuel mileage of 6 miles per gallon. An equation is provided in the conclusion to aid future projects.It is important to note that without partnering with We Conserve, an environmental stewardship initiative at UW-Madison, the project would have increased waste management costs. Also, Monona Terrace will continue the project in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and We Conserve past the grant period.

Maximizing the Efficiency of a Large Scale Vermicomposting Project
Student Investigators: Joey Kotnour, Leah Schiller and Kayla Wandsnider, UW-La Crosse
Advisor: Ryan Perroy
The objectives of this project were threefold: (1) to establish best practices for operating and maintaining the newly purchased University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (UW-L) vermicomposting system, (2) to collect reference data on composting programs at other universities across the nation, and (3) to develop educational materials for the UW-L community on the benefits and importance of vermicomposting and recycling food waste in general.

2010 Reports

The Enhanced Mobility of Nanotech Waste in the Presences of Humic Acids and Natural Organic Matter
Student Investigator: Joshua James Bohnert, UW-Platteville
Advisor: James Hamilton
Carbon nano-materials from Nanotech waste may have the capacity to mobilize through the aquifer. The purpose of this experiment was to determine if natural organic matter in the form of humic acid can affect the mobility of nanomaterials. Using Right-Angle Light Scattering, Dynamic Light Scattering, and Zeta potential, measurements were made that indicated CNT mobility through the aquifer was possible in the presence of humic acid.

Cost Benefit Analysis of Rural Roadside Pickup of Solid & Recyclables in Rural Dunn County, WI
Student Investigator: George Haydusko, UW-Stout
Advisor: Krista James
Currently Dunn County, rural residents bring their solid waste and recyclables to the Dunn County Transfer Station & Recycling Center or to one of eight full service Area Collection Stations. The objective of this research project was to partner with the Dunn County Solid Waste Division to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the current Dunn County rural collection system compared to a potential rural roadside collection system. To meet the research objective of this proposal, data was collected to determine the total cost and the per capita average total cost of the current rural collection system, the total cost and the per capita potential cost of a rural roadside collection system, the total mileage of the current system, and the total mileage of a potential rural roadside collection system. Results of this study indicate the cost of the proposed rural roadside collection system ($71.60/person) would be more expensive compared to the current collection site system ($23.40/person). However, estimated fuel consumption and CO2 emissions may be slightly lower with a rural roadside collection system; these values could be improved if compressed natural gas waste haulers were used, rather than new diesel trucks, which have a fuel consumption of 2.5 mpg.
Assessing the Feasibility of Composting Pre-Consumer Food Waste at UW-Green Bay
Student Investigators: Molly Collard and Shaun Raganyi, UW-Green Bay
Advisor: John Katers
This study evaluated the amount and type of pre-consumer food waste generated at UW-Green Bay, and then explored four composting options for this specific waste stream. Composting using windrows, aerated static piles, in-vessel, and vermicomposting systems were each evaluated for their technical feasibility on campus. It was determined that in-vessel composting was the most feasible option based on the Wisconsin climate and logistical issues on campus. It was shown that in-vessel composting is a solid project – environmentally, economically, and educationally. A thorough cost benefit analysis was performed for a commonly used in-vessel composter (Earth Tub), where future potential changes in electricity costs and the waste hauling contract were factored in. Changes in the cost of electricity do not significantly alter the payback and even if the conservative scenario where waste hauling costs remain the same, the Earth Tub offers a 6 year payback. It is recommended that an Earth Tub be operational before 2012 and prior to 2011, the University Union and A’viands use this study to formulate a more detailed plan regarding pre-consumer food waste generation collection, paper collection, and other logistics associated with operating and maintaining an Earth Tub.
Composting Feasibility Study for University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Student Investigator: Alyssa Peschke, UW-Whitewater
Advisor: Eric Compas
The purpose of this report is to 1) assess current practices, 2) survey campus alternatives, and 3) give a recommendation of the best alternative. This report offers an outline of analyzing food waste starting by describing the current food waste disposal practices and analyzing specific criteria. The analyses will also propose basic steps for implementing each alternative, referencing needed agreements, resources, labor, and planning. Concluding the report is an analysis section, contrasting each alternative‘s strengths and shortcomings while discussing possible variations. Additionally, this report offers contacts for local resources.
Tap Your Way into a Cleaner World, How to Decrease Students' Use of Bottled Water
Student Investigator: Soren Cesar, UW-La Crosse
Advisor: Sara McFall Sullivan
A campus-wide survey at the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse was emailed and results were analyzed to determine an overall baseline comparison between the Environmental Attitudes Scale, the New Environmental Paradigm Scale, and the created Water Consciousness Scale and identify any correlations between the three scales. All three scales were expected to positively correlate. The second stage of the research included two psychology classes, functioning as control and experimental groups. Both classes were given all three scales at the beginning and end of the study to determine any changes, and an intervention was presented to the experimental group in an effort to get participants to decrease their use of bottled water, increase their use of tap water, and reduce the overall amount of plastic waste they contribute.

Post-consumer Pilot Composting at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Student Investigator: Jeremy Gragert, UW-La Crosse
Advisor: Mary Beth Vahala
This report outlines how a post-consumer food scrap composting program was set up and implemented.
Vigor, Sex and Woody Substrates: Lessons from the Cultivation of Pleurotus Ostreatus
Student Investigator: Kymberly Draeger, UW-Green Bay
Advisor: Amy Wolf
The purpose of this project was to comparatively assess high lignocellulosic waste substrates for Pleurotus ostreatus cultivation and to understand the lifecycle governing the fruiting production of oyster mushrooms.  Using short-fiber paper sludge, office paper, newspaper, and Phragmites australis (invasive common reed) as substrates, I wanted to transform waste, and was adamant about not creating waste.  Throughout the study, I increased my appreciation for the complexity regarding fungal systems, genetics, sexual recombination and their adaptive responses to environmental factors.  With further manipulation, it was shown that strains could be cultivated to grow within sub-optimal environmental conditions, in an effort to be cognizant of human safety.   With knowledge about the fungal recyclers of the world, we can move toward a better understanding of waste and its utility. 
Reconstruction of Railroad Beds with Industrial Byproducts an In Situ Reclamation Material
Student Investigators: Ali Ebrahimi and Andrew K. Keene, UW-Madison
Advisors: Tuncer Edil and James Tinjum
Development and rehabilitation of railway freight transportation infrastructure needs to address several issues to be technically and economically sustainable. New railroad beds must sustain higher loads, last longer with less frequent maintenance cycles (economics), and ideally minimize energy consumption and generation of greenhouse gases from materials production and construction. In this study, reconstruction of railroad beds was considered by using in situ reclaimed materials, such as recycled ballast, and replacement of subballast materials with recycled pavement materials (RPM), with and without enhancement by industrial byproducts, such as fly ash (FA). RPM had approximately similar deformational characteristic as original granitic subballast, with relatively higher rate of permanent deformation. Mixture of RPM with 10% by weight of FA can considerably reduce the amount of plastic deformation of subballast layer, but fatigue cracking must be studied thoroughly. Use of recycled ballast as a replacement for the original ballast will result in larger plastic deformation and an increase in the amount of particle breakage under cyclic loadings, however, the deformation of recycled ballast under
large number of cyclic loading is less than the FRA limit for the maintenance. Use of recycled pavement materials and industrial byproducts as subballast layers will reduce the amount of solid waste disposed in landfills and provide more sustainable construction due to lower transportation and production cost.
Use of Compost Tea as a Nutrient Amendment for Plant Growth in a Re-Circulating Hydroponic System
Student Investigator: Brian Leudtke, UW-Stevens Point
Advisor: Aga Razvi and Robert Michitsch
Plants were grown successfully in the compost tea (CT).  All plants completed their life cycles, producing flowers and seed pods by the termination of the trial.  Elemental analysis of plant tissue showed that plants grown in CT had concentrations of nutrients in the acceptable range except for sodium (Na), which was found in excessive concentrations.  The extremely high Na content likely reduced plant growth by reducing the ability of the plant to translocate water and nutrients (Hopkins 1999).  Plants grown in CT were smaller, but healthier in appearance than plants grown in the control solution.  It is recommended that the solution should be diluted to an acceptable Na content for future trials.  Although the decrease in concentration of other elements may cause deficiencies and limit growth potential.  A compost source low in Na may produce a more effective CT.

2009 Reports

Spreading Awareness of Proper Pharmaceutical Disposal Options in Southwest Wisconsin
Student Investigators: Erin McGuire and Victoria Rufino, UW-Platteville
Advisor: Steve Brachman
The purpose of this research study was to determine current pharmaceutical disposal methods being used by Grant, Iowa, and Lafayette County residents in southwest Wisconsin. Participants included random residents of the three counties.

Microbial Population Dynamics & Diversity in Municipal Solid Waste Anaerobic Laboratory Reactors
Student Investigator: Christopher A. Bareither, Steven J. Fong and Georgia L. Wolfe, UW-Madison
Advisor: Katherine McMahon
This study is directed towards developing relationships between physical and environmental characteristics of bioreactor landfills, microbial community composition, and methanogen populations. Anaerobic reactors degrading municipal solid waste are operated with temperature control and leachate recirculation to optimize biodegradation. Leachate samples are collected weekly and analyzed for pH, electrical conductivity, oxidation-reduction potential, and chemical oxygen demand. Biogas produced during biodegradation is measured volumetrically and composition is assessed for H2, N2, O2, CO2 and CH4. Microbial community composition is assessed using automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis and methanogen populations are assessed using quantitative polymerase chain reaction. The reactors have been in operation for approximately 160 d and all exhibit typical leachate chemistry trends of anaerobic degradation. Coupled with the methane production, the reactors have progressed through the acid phase and accelerated methane production phase. A DNA extraction methodology was developed to optimize the concentration of DNA, which involves filtering leachate on a 0.2 μm filter
and extraction with a Mo Bio Powersoil Kit.
Electronics Recycling at UW-Stevens Point
Student Investigator: Amanda Dent, UW-Stevens Point
Advisor: Aga Razvi
The purpose of this study was to execute an electronic recycling drive on the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point campus and determine if there could be a feasible drop-off location on campus for year-round electronic waste recycling for students, staff, and faculty.  Two electronic drives took place, one in each semester of the 2008-2009 academic year.  These drives were to determine the need, if any, of the campus for holding such an event.  These drives produced a combined 21,319 pounds of electronics that were recycled and kept out of a landfill. It was determined that a year-round drop-off location was not feasible but an annual recycling drive would be better.
Characterization of Solid Waste and the Potential to Reduce Solid Waste through Implementation of a Composting Program at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville
Student Investigators: Katherine Goldberg and Colleen Smith, UW-Platteville
Advisor: Christopher A. Baxter              
Approximately 350 lbs of solid waste was sorted with approximately 200 lbs of the waste coming from buildings that provide dining services, while the remainder came from buildings that primarilyoffices and classrooms.  Biodegradable paper accounted for the largest proportion of the solid waste sampled; ranging 23-69% of the samples collected and averaged 46% of all samples. Biodegradable non-paper comprised 0-65% of the samples collected, with an average of 22%. The highest proportion of this category came from buildings used primarily for dining services. The highest percentage of biodegradable paper came from samples collected from buildings used primarily for offices/classrooms. Recyclable plastics accounted for 1-14% of the samples, with an average of 10% and were slightly higher in classroom/office buildings compared to the dining services building. Similarly, percentage of non-recyclable plastics was slightly higher in the classroom/office buildings compared to the dining services buildings and ranged from 7-19% with an average of 10%. Recyclable metal and glass represented relatively small portions of the samples collected, averaging 7% and 4%, respectively. Other non-biodegradable and non-recyclable materials accounted for 4-21% of the samples collected, with an average of 13%. On average, biodegradable and recyclable material accounted for 80%, while nonbidegradable materials accounted for 20% of the solid waste of the solid waste samples.

Tap into a Healthier Bottle: A Better Way to Hydrate
Student Investigators:  Soren Cesar & Kayla Johnson, UW-La Crosse
Advisor: Sara McFall Sullivan    
In this study, attitudes and motivations of participants in regards to bottled water consumption were assessed over the course of the academic school year at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.  The participants were assigned to one of two groups.  The control group took a survey and baseline data was recorded.  The experimental group took the initial survey and participated in an intervention that was meant to change their attitudes about bottled water and ultimately decrease their use two weeks later.  Both groups took a final survey at the end of the semester to determine whether our intervention had been effective and supported our hypothesis.

A Project Focused on Reducing the Miles & Cost of Recycling by Offering Roadside Pickup for Rural Dunn County
Student Investigator: Nina Borschowiec, UW-Stout
Advisor: Krista James
Dunn County Wisconsin has eight full service rural waste collection stations and one recycling drop-off. Currently, rural Dunn County residents bring their solid waste and recyclables to their township collection station. The objective of this research project was to collaborate with Dunn County Division of Solid Waste to determine if the total cost of transporting recyclables from rural homes to central collection stations could be reduced through the implementation of roadside recycling. A survey was used to gather information from individuals who were traveling to the collection sites to dispose of their solid waste and recyclables. Veolia Environmental Services provided information on their collections trucks so that fuel efficiency comparisons and carbon footprints could be determined for both the current method of garbage disposal and for a possible roadside pickup method. The results indicate the current method of garbage and recycling disposal is preferred by residents; however, a rural roadside program would be more fuel efficient and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions.