In September 1984, the General Assembly passed the Hazardous Waste Technology Exchange Service Act (20 ILCS 1130/1) mandating the Department of Energy and Natural Resources (DENR) to establish a Hazardous Waste Technology Exchange Service Program, later renamed as the Hazardous Waste Research and Information Center (HWRIC). The Program was to be temporarily administered under the guidance of the State Water Survey until HWRIC could operate as an independent division of DENR. Funding was appropriated through the General Revenue Fund and the Hazardous Waste Research Fund.
In 1989, the Program was officially renamed as the Hazardous Waste Research and Information Center (20 ILCS 1130/4). It was then separated from the State Water Survey and became a separate division of DENR. Following this legislation, the Center was designated by the University of Illinois as a separate "allied organization" and was administratively separated from the State Water Survey.
In July 1995, Governor James Edgar restructured many state agencies (Executive Order #2 1995). Through this restructuring, WMRC, the three Scientific Surveys, and other state agencies, were transferred under the Department of Conservation. The department was renamed the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
In August 1996, the Board of Natural Resources and Conservation (BNRC) voted to change the Center's name to Waste Management and Research Center (PA90-0490). The new name better reflects the broad range of services provided by the Center, which deals with all waste-related issues and releases to all environmental media.
The Center's mission is to combine research and education; oversee information collection, analysis and dissemination; and direct technical assistance to industry, agribusiness and communities in a multidisciplinary approach to better manage the state's hazardous wastes and solve problems associated with it, along with dealing other critical environmental issues. The Center's Pollution Prevention Program, initiated in 1989, builds on the research, information and technical assistance aspects of other Center programs to help industry and others reduce or eliminate waste at the source. The Illinois Toxic Pollution Prevention Act (TPPA) of 1989 established a Toxic Pollution Prevention Assistance Program within HWRIC to (1) provide industrial and technical assistance; (2) encourage pollution prevention; (3) promote better waste management through research; and (4) provide information dissemination and technology transfer.
Prior to 1997, the Center consisted of four programs: (1) Research, (2) Information Services, (3) Laboratory Services, and (4) Pollution Prevention, along with an Administrative Unit and Data Management Group. An internal reorganization took effect in January 1997, which reduced the number of programs to three by combining the Research and Laboratory Services programs into one.
The Center was initially housed in temporary offices on the comer of 6th Street and Springfield Avenue in Champaign, Illinois. The Center's first Director, David L. Thomas, was hired in May 1985. Center staff relocated in October 1985 to temporary offices at 1808 Woodfield Drive in Savoy, Illinois.
In summer 1985, Envirodyne Engineers, Holabird and Root, and Altay and Associates were selected to begin designing the state-of-the-art Hazardous Materials Laboratory (HML). In July 1988, the ground-breaking ceremony was held initiating the construction start-up of the lab's research facilities. Construction was completed in spring 1990 and the staff moved into the HML, One Hazelwood Drive, Champaign, in April. A building dedication ceremony was held on April 20, 1990 in conjunction with Earth Day.
In November 1994, WMRC opened an office in Chicago, co-located with the Chicago Manufacturing Center at Homan Square. The Chicago staff are under the Center's Pollution Prevention Program and assist with the Center's technical assistance activities.
In February 1997, WMRC initiated a presence in Springfield when a Remediation Manager was hired. This office deals with problems associated with state-owned contaminated lands and Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) issues. This office was transferred to another division of DNR in 2002.
In September 1997, WMRC opened an office in Alton, co-located with the Illinois Natural History Survey. The staff member is under the Center's Pollution Prevention Program and assists with the technical assistance efforts, primarily in the southern Illinois area.
In September 1997, Dr. David Thomas resigned as Director to become the Chief of the Illinois Natural History Survey. Dr. Gary Miller serves as Interim Director served as Interim Director of the Center until fall 1998 .
In October 1998, Dr. George Vander Velde was hired as Director.
In June 2004, WMRC opened an office in Peoria, co-located with the Illinois State Water Survey. The staff member is under the Center's Pollution Prevention Program and assists with the Center's technical assistance efforts, primarily in the northeastern region of Illinois.
In April 2008, Dr. George Vander Velde retired. Dr. Gary Miller served again as Interim Director.
In July 2008, the Center and the Scientific Surveys were transferred from the Department of Natural Resources to the University of Illinois. The Center's name was changed to the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) to more accurately reflect its research and technical assistance activities. At that same time, the Institute of Natural Resource Sustainability (renamed the Prairie Research Institute in 2011) was formed to be the umbrella organization for the Center and the other Surveys. The Institute is under the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research within the University of Illinois administration.
In March 2009, Dr. Gary Miller accepts the position of Interim Associate Executive Director at the Institute of Natural Resource Sustainability. Dr. John Marlin was named ISTC's Acting Director.
In May 2010, Dr. Manohar Kulkarni became the Director of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center.
In December 2012, Dr. David L. Thomas was named Interim Operating Director of the Center.
The following year, in December 2013, Dr. Kevin O’Brien was appointed Director of ISTC.
Dr. Kevin O’Brien becomes the Director of ISTC.