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NIH Recycling Mission

NIH Recycling Mission

The NIH Recycling Program is committed to the delivery of effective, courteous, innovative, and responsive recycling services to the NIH. We serve to establish a supportive and informational role to coordinate recycling at all NIH installations in cooperation with local, state, and federal agencies. The program integrates the principles of recycling and waste reduction into all phases of daily activities and operations.
Almost everything at NIH is recyclable! Before throwing items in the trash, please stop to consider if it is recyclable. When in doubt, recycle it.
Do not recycle materials contaminated with food products, infectious material, hazardous chemicals, or radioactive materials.
For more information contact:
Location ​Contact ​Phone Number
​Bethesda/Poolesville LT Beth Osterink or Bill Ketner ​301.496.7990
​Recycling Requests/Collection ​301.402.6349
​Baltimore LCDR James Pitt ​443.470.2761
​Frederick CDR Mark Marshall ​301.631.7238
Gary Happel (NCI) ​301.486.1102
​Montgomery County Leased Facilities Facility Manager
​North Carolina Paul Johnson ​919.541.4237
​Rocky Mountain Laboratories Barri Twardoski ​406.363.9216

Recycling Regulations

Montgomery County Recycling Regulations

Montgomery County Executive Regulation 15-04 AM: Requires ALL businesses and employees to recycle mixed paper, cardboard, commingled materials, and scrap metal. It is illegal to dispose of recyclable materials with solid waste. Violations of this regulation can result in fines of up to $150 per day per offense.

Executive Order 13423, Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management

Under Executive Order 13423 and the related implementing instructions, waste prevention and recycling must be incorporated into agency operations. The act of disposal is viewed as a last resort and recycling must always be considered first. Specifically, Section 2(e) of the Executive Order requires agencies to increase diversion of solid waste and maintain cost-effective waste prevention and recycling programs in its facilities.

Executive Order 13514, Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance

Under Executive Order 13514 Federal agencies shall eliminate waste, recycle, and prevent pollution. Specifically, Section 2(e) of the Executive Order requires agencies to minimize generation of waste and pollutants through source reduction, divert at least 50 percent of non-hazardous solid waste, divert at least 50 percent of construction and demolition materials and debris, increase diversion of compostable and organic material, and reduce printing paper use and acquire uncoated printing and writing paper containing at least 30 percent postconsumer fiber.

Recycling at the NIH Bethesda Campus

View the Recycling Guide or the NIH Waste Disposal Guide for additional information and contacts. NIH Waste Disposal Guide

Mandatory Recyclables 

Mixed PaperMixed Paper Poster - Click for larger version
White or Colored Office Paper, Shredded Paper, Newspaper, Telephone Directories, Paper and Hardback Books, Magazines, Binders, Scientific Journals, Catalogs, Post-it® Notes, Envelopes, Manila Folders, Tissue and Paper Towel Boxes, All Paperboard Type Boxes (e.g., frozen meal packaging), Paper Coffee and Beverage Cups, Paper Plates

Do NOT Recycle: Paper Towels, Tissues, or Paper Contaminated with Food


CommingledCommingled Recycling Poster - Click for larger version

Aluminum, Steel, and Tin Cans, Aluminum Foil, All Plastic Bottles, Cups, and Containers, Yogurt Containers (Rinsed), Prescription Bottles, Glass Bottles and Jars, Food Storage Containers, Grocery, Retail, Sandwich, and Other Miscellaneous Plastic Bags, Plastic Utensils (Clean)

Do NOT Recycle: Styrofoam, or Pyrex



Please remove packaging materials, flatten, and place on loading dock or next to recycling bins.

Yard Waste

Scrap Metal 

 Additional Recyclables

  • Pipette Tip RacksComputer Monitor
  • Wooden PalletsToner Cartridge Recycling Poster - Click for larger versionPipette Tip Racks
  • Construction Debris
  • Toner/Printer Cartridges​ *Benefits NIH Charities
  • Tyvek Garments
  • Batteries (See Chemical Waste)
  • Fluorescent Tubes (See Chemical Waste)
  • Empty Chemical Bottles (See Chemical Waste)
  • Electronics (E-Waste)

Can I recycle food containers or plastic utensils?

Yes. The food containers and utensils must be made of recyclable material (plastic, paper, aluminum, etc.) and be clean.  Please empty all containers of food waste and/or liquids before placing them into the recycling bins.

How do I recycle confidential documents?

Confidential documents should first be shredded.  There are several shredding companies that institutes use to shred their documents.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Program Support Center, Administrative Operations Service, provides shredding for federal agencies.  For more information about their shredding program please call 301-443-6340.  If you shred documents with your own governmental paper shredder, please put the shredded paper in a bag and place it next to the mixed paper recycling bin.

What happens to NIH Bethesda recyclables?

Paper: Transported to Georgetown Paper Stock for removal of contaminants and baling. It is then shipped to a paper mill for processing into paper towels and toilet paper.
Commingled Materials: Transported to Georgetown Paper Stock for removal of contaminants and sorting. Metal is sorted by type and sent to Montgomery Scrap where they are shipped to be melted and made into new products. Plastic is baled and shipped to a carpet mill for making new carpet. Glass is sent to the Montgomery County Transfer Station for recycling with homeowner waste.
Cardboard: Transported to Georgetown Paper Stock where it is baled and shipped to a mill to make new fiberboard for boxed items such as pizza, candy, and DVDs.
Toner Cartridges: Transported to Virginia where they are sorted, boxed, and shipped for remanufacturing.
Pipette Tip Racks: Shipped directly to a processor to be melted into black pellets. The pellets are shipped to a processor to make flower pots.

Where are the recycling bins located?  

Metal containers: Located near elevators, in hallways, and office suitesThree outside recycling bins for newspaper, aluminum, and glass, plastic, and metal.  There is also a trash can.Metal Recycling Bins

Outside containers: Located near parking lots and parking structures.

Blue desk-side bins: Can be used in your office cubicle or next to your lab bench. They are the size of a small trash can and collect mixed paper or commingled materials. Contact your Green Team Leader to request a set.Picture of large, white hamper on wheels with NIH recycle logo on side and full of paper materials to be recycled.Picture of blue desk-side recycling bins.  One bin is for commingled and one is for mixed paper.  The have the NIH reduce, reuse, recycle logo in the center and are made of 100% post consumer recycled products.

Hampers: Hampers are for collecting paper products from office clean-outs. Call 301-402-6349 to request delivery and pick-up. 


NIH Recycling History

The NIH Bethesda recycling program began in 1991, which involved collecting and recycling paper from two buildings on the Bethesda Campus. This program expanded to several other buildings in 1992. Montgomery County enacted business recycling regulations in 1993 that required all businesses to recycle paper products, cardboard, yard waste, and food and beverage containers made of glass, plastic, steel, and aluminum. These regulations resulted in the implementation of a full recycling program in 1996. The recycling program has continually grown over the years to include additional items such as toner cartridges, scrap metal, Tyvek suits, batteries, and electronic waste.

Recycling Statistics

  • NIH's current recycling average as reported to Montgomery County is about 60%, which includes both the mandatory and additional recyclables.
  • The NIH recycling rate for the mandatory recyclables (mixed paper, commingled, cardboard, and scrap metal) was 39% for 2010.  The current recycling goal for businesses in Montgomery County is 50%.
  • The Waste Diversion Rate for FY 2011 is 46.5%.  This takes into account source reduction and reuse activities in addition to recycling.  This does not include construction debris.
  • At NIH, each person disposes of 2.4 pounds of trash per day and recycles 1.7 pounds of material.
  • A routine waste audit of Building 13 in June 2007 determined that over 42% of materials found in the solid waste compactor were mandatory recyclables, weighing over 2,540 pounds with the majority of it being mixed paper (2,340 pounds).  During 2010, waste audits from buildings 10, 35, 37, and 13 found approximately 25-35% of the solid waste was recyclable material.

 Revenue from Recyclable Materials

 On average, NIH receives the following for the value of recyclables on a monthly basis:
Material ​Revenue
​Cardboard ​$2,000
Mixed Paper ​$500
Scrap Metal ​$4,000
Wood Pallets ​$1,400
This equates to nearly $90,000 per year for the value of these recyclables.  This money helps offset the costs of the recycling program.

Benefiting NIH Charities 

For every usable inkjet or toner cartridge that is recycled, $1.00 is donated to NIH Charities (The Children's Inn at NIH, Special Love for Children with Cancer - Camp Fantastic, Friends of the Clinical Center).  Over $6,000 has been donated since 2007.


Recycling at Leased Facilities

What can I recycle?

Leased facilities in Montgomery County follow Montgomery County business recycling guidance.  Mixed paper, commingled materials, cardboard, and scrap metal are mandatory items that must be recycled.  Many leased facilities also have a place on the loading dock to recycle toner cartridges.  For each cartridge that is recycled, NIH charities receive $1.00.  For specifics, contact your facility manager. 

Who do I contact for a recycling bin?

Contact your facility manager for request a recycling bin.

I keep seeing the recycling being dumped in with the trash.  Is my facility recycling?

A few of the facilities have their recycling materials sorted by housekeeping on the loading dock.  Please contact your facility manager for specifics on your recycling program.


Recycling Defined

What is recycling?

Recycling is the process of collecting, sorting, cleaning, treating, and reconstituting materials that would otherwise become solid waste, and returning them to the economic mainstream in the form of raw material for new products.

What happens to items that are recycled? 

Newspapers are recycled into products such as cereal boxes, egg cartons, pencil barrels, grocery bags, tissue paper, etc.  Plastics can be recycled into lumber used for playgrounds, decks, and outdoor furniture.  They can also be recycled into clothing, carpet, tennis balls, fiberfill in your sleeping bag, and car parts.  Food storage containers may be recycled into security barriers.  Aluminum can be recycled and be back on the shelf within six weeks as a new aluminum can. 

What are the 4 R’s of Recycling?

Reduce: Waste prevention, or "source reduction," means consuming and throwing away less. Source reduction actually prevents the generation of waste in the first place, so it is the most preferred method of waste management.

euse: Reusing items by repairing them, donating them to charity and community groups, or selling them also reduces waste. Reusing products, when possible, is even better than recycling because the item does not need to be reprocessed before it can be used again.

ecycle: Recycling turns materials that would otherwise become waste into valuable resources. In addition, it generates a host of environmental, financial, and social benefits.

Rebuy: When we buy recycled products, we create an economic incentive for recyclable materials to be collected, manufactured, and marketed as new products. Green purchasing is now a federal requirement and encompasses many areas of federal purchasing.

What is zero waste?

Zero waste is an approach to waste management and the use of resources. It focuses on a “whole system” approach by going beyond the "end-of-the-line" treatment of waste and promoting the four "R's" of recycling: reduce, reuse, recycle, and rebuy. Zero Waste maximizes recycling, minimizes waste, reduces consumption and ensures that products are made to be reused, repaired, or recycled back into nature or the marketplace.

Examples of Zero Waste Success in the Business World

  • Hewlett-Packard (9,000 employees) is diverting 92-95% of its solid waste, saving almost a million dollars a year in avoided waste disposal costs.
  • Toyota claims a 97% zero-landfill status average over its 14 assembly plants.
  • Anheuser-Busch has recycled 99% of the solid waste generated at its 12 breweries.
  • Subaru claims that 99.8% of the refuse from its Indiana plant is diverted from going to landfills by recycling and reusing parts.


Benefits of Recycling

How does recycling benefit the environment?

Recycling reduces the use of natural resources by reusing materials:
  • 94% of the natural resources used by Americans are non-renewable. Non-renewable, natural resources use has increased from 59% in 1900 and 88% in 1945.
  • Recycling saves non-renewable resources. For example, by not recycling paper 80% more wood will need to be harvested by 2010 to meet growing paper consumption demands. However, through active paper recycling, only 20% more wood will need to be harvested by 2010.
  • It takes 95% less energy to recycle aluminum than it does to make it from raw materials.
  • Making products from recyclables results in energy savings. Recycled steel saves 60% production energy, recycled newspaper 40%, recycled plastics 70%, and recycled glass 40%.
  • Using scrap steel instead of virgin ore to make new steel takes 40% less water and creates 97% less mining waste.

How does recycling benefit the economy?

  • Incinerating 10,000 tons of waste creates 1 job, while landfilling the same amount creates 6 jobs. Recycling the same 10,000 tons creates 36 jobs!
  • The National Recycling Coalition reports that recycling has created 1.1 million jobs, $236 billion in gross annual sales, and $37 billion in annual payroll.
  • By meeting the state’s 50% recycling goal, California is expected to create about 45,000 recycling jobs, compared to 20,000 new jobs slated to be created for the manufacturing sector.
  • Massachusetts employs more than 9,000 people in more than 200 recycling enterprises. About half of these jobs are in the recycling-based manufacturing sector. These businesses represent more than half a billion dollars in value to the state's economy.

Why is recycling important to future generations?

Natural resources are being depleted and landfills are being filled at an increasing rate. Our current system of production, consumption and disposal has become unsustainable. It is imperative for everyone—from individuals to large organizations—to rethink our ideas and our relationship to trash disposal. By reducing the amount of trash produced and reusing existing materials, we can all make a difference by protecting the environment, conserving natural resources, and sustaining the planet for future generations.

Recycling at Home

Each county has different waste procedures. Please check your county’s recycling website for proper guidance.