Following Our Waste and Water Streams: SUST Senior Cassidy Avent Reflects on Her Summer 2015 Internship with SCARCE

This guest post is by RU senior Cassidy Avent, a SUST major who interned during the Summer 2015 semester at the non-profit organization, SCARCE (School & Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education), based in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.  Here is the last of Cassidy’s essays this spring, as she reflects back on her work as an environmental educator to young people across the DuPage County area

Making Super Crayons at SCARCE

Repurposing school supplies at SCARCE

Over the summer of 2015, I worked as an intern at the non-profit organization, School and Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education (SCARCE), which was founded by Kay McKeen 25 years ago in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. The SCARCE team has a mission to spread environmental awareness through education to the community members of DuPage County and to people around the world.

As an intern, my responsibilities varied with the changing months. Much of my time was spent inside the SCARCE office, where I would do research for Kay or help prepare for community and school events. Other days we would give on-site presentations at local schools and at community events. Also, there were two weeks during my internship at SCARCE in which Kay McKeen and Steve Kenny taught two different teacher workshops.

A city garbage truck makes collection. Changes are coming to Chicago's waste management system.

A city garbage truck makes collection.

In the first workshop, called “Where is Away?”, Kay and Steve discussed what happens to our waste when we dispose of it. Every day that week we went to various facilities in the DuPage County area where we learned about what happens to our refuse, recyclables, and sewage waste. One of the most interesting places we toured was a landfill, which definitely smells worse than one would imagine! Regardless of the sour air at the drop off location, I found it very important to actually see that when we throw away something, it does not just disappear.

This workshop made me realize that even though the waste produced by residential communities is far less than that of industrial or commercial institutions, consumers are still responsible for understanding that a lot of our waste is composed of resources that can be used again or recycled into another form. As for the waste that cannot be reused or recycled, it is important that we know this will all end up in a landfill and remain there for a very, very long time.

The second workshop Kay and Steve taught, “Living Water”, discussed the importance of keeping our water clean and healthy because there will never be “new” water. Like the previous week, we travelled to various places that showed us how our water is cleaned, treated, and maintained. One of the most impactful visits I experienced was at the Jardine Water Treatment Center. This facility is the world’s largest water treatment plant and can treat up to one million gallons of water per minute!

Visiting JWTC helped me to realize how much engineering and technology is involved in making clean drinking water a possibility for our communities. During this week, we also travelled to the Woodridge – Green Valley Wastewater Treatment Facility. Instead of cleaning water for people to drink, this plant cleans wastewater that will be reintroduced to the nearby DuPage River. On the tour we were able to see, hear, and smell all of the waste being cleaned at the facility. I was amazed at how much trash was being filtered out of the water that comes in from the drains of the surrounding community.

Both of these workshops taught me so much about what happens to our waste and water after we are done with it. The technology behind these processes is truly amazing. I am so glad to have been able to experience this through interning at SCARCE.

If you live in or near DuPage County, I strongly encourage you to visit SCARCE this summer! They are open 9AM-4:30PM Monday-Friday and are located at 799 Roosevelt Rd. Building 2, Suite 108 in Glen Ellyn, IL. For more information, visit

Wall art inside SCARCE office.

Wall art inside SCARCE office.

Submitted 5 May 2016 by Cassidy Avent

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