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Vol. LVII, No. 23
November 18, 2005

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The State of Waste at NIH

How much garbage does NIH produce? NIH processed 14,653.2 tons of solid waste in 2004, approximately 0.8 ton per year for each of NIH’s 18,627 employees. Not all of our waste goes to landfill. NIH began a recycling program in 1993 and about 30 percent of the waste generated is now recycled through various processes.

Markets have been found for paper and cardboard (1,130 tons in 2004). Plastic bottles with a recycling symbol 1-PETE or 2-HDPE on the bottom (plastic food or beverage bottle with funnel necks) are used as raw material to produce new products. Wood pallets are refurbished by a pallet broker and then sold for reuse. Toner, copier and ink-jet cartridges each generate $1 for NIH charities, or about $2,000 a year. Polypropylene pipette tip racks are ground on-site at NIH and used as polypropylene feed stock in plastics manufacturing. Polyester-based X-ray film (collected by the Chemical Waste Division) is processed and polyester recovered and resold to Kodak. Tyvek suits used in animal care are processed, cleaned, repaired and sold as remanufactured Tyveks, and also generate funds for the NIH charities. Aluminum and other scrap metals are delivered to Montgomery Scrap and used as raw material to produce new products. Batteries collected by the Chemical Waste Division are processed for recycling or treated to render them non-hazardous.

Considerable resources are expended by the Division of Environmental Protection to recover as much waste as possible and keep it from going to landfill. What isn’t recovered goes to the Montgomery County transfer station. It is sorted and compacted into rail cars and shipped to an incinerator for heat recovery. DEP continues to look for ways to recycle or reuse what the NIH community discards while pursuing its mission. Future articles will discuss the Environmental Management System that DEP and environmental stewards across NIH are developing to bring the community closer to a position of sustainability.