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
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.