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NIH Environmental Management System

Take Action to Protect the Future


* Please note there have been temporary changes to the waste management services on the Bethesda ​campus. Click here to view the full details of the changes.

The 4 Rs

Reduce, general waste and toxic chemicals
Reuse, check out FreeStuff
Rebuy, ensure you take Green Procurement into account
Recycle, return material back to the marketplace

Use "Recycling and Sort Refresher" for your staff meetings and Green Team meetings.​​

Recycling and Sort Refresher.pptx

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.

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.

Before throwing items in the trash, please stop to consider if it is recyclable.

Zero Waste is a whole system approach which reduces consumption and ensures that products are made to be reused, repaired, or recycled back into nature or the marketplace.

Recycling bins under a tent in a park.

Recycling Requirements

Executive Order 13693, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade

Under Executive Order 13693 Federal agencies shall advance waste prevention and pollution prevention by (Section 3(j)) diverting at least 50 percent of non-hazardous solid waste through recycling, recovery, and composting. At least 50 percent of non-hazardous construction and demolition materials and debris must also be diverted.

*Although E.O. 13693 Section 19 (c)(e)(v) acknowledges energy from waste as a renewable and clean energy source, waste-to-energy incineration is not accepted (Section 19 (i)) as a form of diverting waste. Waste that is not recycled in Mont​​gomery County, MD is sent to a waste-to-energy facility.

View the Recycling Guide or the NIH Waste Disposal Guide page 14 for additional information and contacts.

Mandatory Recyclables

Recycle clean and dry paper, such as: newspaper, magazines, scientific journals, catalogs, post-it notes, manila folders, envelopes, tissue and paper towel boxes (not the actual tissues and paper towels), white or colored paper, frozen food boxes (not actual food), and paper board.

Collage of magazines, books, envelopes, Post-It notes, and printer paper.

Flatten cardboard boxes and place near centralized recycling bins.

Cardboard box.

Plastic, metal, and unbroken glass containers, cans, and bottles. All containers should be empty. Lab containers and bottles should not be recycled in the same bin as consumer containers.

Recyclables, including bottles, cans, a yogurt container, and a ball made of tin foil.

NO hazardous chemicals, radioactive materials, infectious substances, or medical waste.

Additional Recyclables (click here for more details)

NIH waste management programs cover comprehensive waste services at NIH, organized around the following waste streams:

  • Chemical Waste

  • Multihazardous Waste

  • Radioactive Waste

  • Medical Pathological Waste (MPW)

  • Recycling

  • G​eneral Waste

Key goals of the NIH waste management programs are to: maximize the amount of waste that gets recycled, recovered, or beneficially reused; reduce the amount of toxic chemicals purchased and used at NIH; provide prompt and effective service in support of the NIH research mission; comply with all applicable waste regulations; and avoid unnecessary chemical wastes through smaller quantity orders.

The NIH Waste Disposal Guide provides your first-step resource for hands-on understanding of NIH Waste programs and the role of NIH staff in managing waste across all waste streams.

NIH tracks progress towards meeting waste management sustainability goals on a yearly basis within the HH​S Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan. Click here for the latest information and progress updates for NIH and HHS Sustainability goals.

Related References and Links:

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