NIH'ers Urged To Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
By Linda Silversmith
Were you among the folks who thought "Clean Your Files Week" (Apr. 17-21) was a good idea, but did not quite get around to it then? Perhaps you were confused because your office did not have bins for recycling either white office or mixed paper. You are not alone.
Although recycling has grown at NIH since the mid-1980's, and paper recycling was high during the recent "Clean Your Files Week," there is room for improvement, said David Crook, recycling coordinator in the Environmental Protection Branch, Division of Safety, ORS.
According to Crook and William "Kenny" Floyd, chief, EPB waste management section, NIH currently recycles about 30 percent of its wastes. Last year, the total amount of campus trash weighed 11,500 tons, with about one quarter (3,203 tons) coming from one site Bldg. 10, the largest building on campus.
Could we do better? The official recycling goal is 50 percent in Montgomery County, where NIH is located, and the county itself recycled 36 percent last year.
The county recycling regulation says that businesses, including government facilities, must recycle office paper, corrugated cardboard, newsprint, aluminum and bi-metal food and beverage cans, glass and plastic food and beverage containers, and yard trimmings.
Businesses can voluntarily recycle scrap metal, plastic film, food waste, wood waste, batteries, motor oil and antifreeze, construction and demolition debris, toner cartridges and phone books.
But how? Crook works with each NIH building or cluster to devise a recycling plan. Volunteer area coordinators help by determining which categories each office, corridor or complex is willing to recycle and by calling Crook to arrange for containers or for troubleshooting.
In a typical week in early spring 2000, the campus collected 12.1 tons of recyclable materials. Crook emphasizes that the main goal of recycling is to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills. The fact that recycling also reduces the cost of waste disposal (about $44 per ton) is a bonus. The 1999 savings were $125,000 for 2,842 tons that NIH recycled over the year.
Aluminum is the clear winner when it comes to the value of recycling both for cash payback and environmental value. Scrap metal dealers this spring were paying nearly $640 per ton. Every ton recycled is one less ton to be imported: the United States no longer mines any aluminum and must import all of it.
The per-ton payback recently for some other wastes was $120 for office paper; $30 for cardboard; and $10 for scrap metal. The NIH waste contractor looks for the best price when hauling recyclables to local dealers.
How can NIH'ers do more to reduce waste? Crook says, "If you could get all that mixed paper out of the trash, it would make a huge difference." Many papers listed as "don'ts" on the white office paper recycling containers are eligible for recycling in the mixed paper containers.
Rental buildings in Montgomery County, such as on Executive Blvd. where many NIH off-campus employees work, are required to make collection and storage of recyclables available, if requested, to tenants. But a county brochure notes, "The responsibility for participating and reporting, however, falls to the individual business (already defined as including government facilities) generating the waste materials."
To learn more about NIH recycling or to request supplies, visit the recycling web site http://www.nih.gov/od/ors/ds/recycle/. If you can't find a volunteer area coordinator listed for your area, Crook points out, "A sign-up form is always available on the web site!" Or you can call him at 402-6036.
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