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National Institute of Environmental Health

Year Submitted: 2007

Process: Laboratory

Industry: Government Agency-Includes Military

Wastes Reduced: Solvents

Location: Research Triangle Park NC

Contact: Scott Merkle

Phone: (919) 541-7933


The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) is one of 24 components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). A multi-disciplinary program of biomedical research is conducted at the NIEHS main research facility. NIEHS strives to conduct all research and support operations in a manner that preserves and protects the environment. The two major components of the institute's waste management program are recycling and chemical waste minimization.

P2 Application:

Chemical Waste Minimization Chemical waste minimization has two basic components: the reduction of the total volume of waste and the reduction of the toxicity of the waste. The use and management of chemicals in a research facility such as NIEHS is different and often more difficult than commercial or production-oriented facilities. Different laboratories use different combinations of chemicals with different procedures. NIEHS uses a variety of approaches and efforts to minimize chemical wastes, including: Surplus chemicals program Experimental protocol review Material substitution Reclaiming of metals Checkout procedures Training Waste segregation Information and publications dissemination Solvent recovery
Recycling Recycling activities at NIEHS began in January of 1993 and have since developed through employee education and involvement. In the past two years, the program has recovered approximately 24,000 pounds of recyclables each month while reducing the Institutes incinerated waste by 32 percent. To date, over 1.7 million pounds of recyclable material has been collected. During this time, the Institute has increased its procurement of recycled-content materials. The items that are currently recycled at NIEHS include: Paper products: white paper, office fiber paper, glossy paper, computer paper, newspaper, corrugated cardboard, and telephone books Polypropylene pipette boxes Polystyrene foam packing "peanuts" and molded polystyrene Photographic film and film cans Metals: aluminum cans, autoclave foil, steel cans Food containers: glass, plastic Other materials: Tyvek coveralls and lab suits, pallets, hard cover books, floppy disks, batteries, 3-ring binders (all sizes and types) Produce waste/shredded paper/animal bedding are vermicomposted for use in landscaping at the facility Small batches of excess equipment or supplies are stocked on "recycling shelves" for reuse by all labs at the facility Larger batches of excess or outdated equipment or supplies may be donated to local schools, technical institutes, and universities.
Conservation and Recovery The Institute's Environmental Awareness Advisory Committee promotes resource conservation and recovery through various efforts. Examples are: Reusable coffee cups Two-sided copying Use of e-mail Being removed from mailing lists Use of recycled copier paper Use of recycled office supplies such as toner cartridges.

RTP Recycles/Green In September of 1997, RTP Recycles/Green was formed as a collaboration of companies in RTP. RTP Green's purpose was to pool recyclables, allowing cost effective recycling of materials that the individual companies did not produce in quantities large enough to financially sustain separate recycling efforts. There are currently 47 member companies participating in RTP Green.

  • Total Cost Savings: $35,100.00
  • Comments: NIEHS's RTP facility was selected as a Government Case Study in the 1997 Governor's Award for Excellence in Waste Reduction competition.

Details of Reductions

  • Chemical Waste
    Comments: The cost for labor and disposal of hazardous waste has been estimated to be $4 per pound. Thus, the 17% reduction in chemical wastes in 1997 represents about $34,700 in savings.
  • Tyvek material
    Comments: NIEHS receives about $700 per year from the recycling of Tyvek material. Packaging material and labor costs are approximately $300 per year, providing a net gain of about $400 per year from this effort.
  • 288,000.0 - Pounds of   Solid Waste
    Comments: In the past two years, the program has recovered approximately 24,000 pounds of recyclables each month while reducing the Institutes incinerated waste by 32 percent. To date, over 1.7 million pounds of recyclable material has been collected.

Additional Information :

This Institute-wide program was selected by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) as "the best and most innovative recycling program among the many agencies within DHHS." As a result, NIEHS was nominated by DHHS in 1995 for the White House "Closing the Circle Award" for recycling.

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