NIH Recycling

The 4 Rs
Reuse, check out FreeStuff
Rebuy, make Green Purchases
Recycle, return material back to the marketplace

Jump to:  

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

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.
NIH Locations and Recycling Contacts​


​Contact ​Phone Number


Poster Toolkit.pdfPoster Toolkit

Bill Ketner, Jacquelyn Johnson, or Ariell Lawrence

For Bethesda Campus recycling requests consult this PDF guide
On-Campus Recycling Bin Request.pdfOn-Campus Recycling Bin Request

*Montgomery County Leased Facilities should contact
their Facility Manager for pick-ups and containers.

*Only toner cartridges and pipette tip rack boxes are
picked up from off-site by the Bethesda campus based crew.



​Baltimore LCDR James Pitt ​443.470.2761
​Frederick CDR Mark Marshall ​301.631.7238
Paul Stokely (NCI) ​301.486.1102
​North Carolina Paul Johnson ​919.541.4237
​Rocky Mountain Laboratories Barri Twardoski ​406.363.9216
 Look for opportunities to recycle at NIH events
Image of Recycling Station at an NIH event

Recycling Requirements

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 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 Montgomery County, MD is sent to a waste-to-energy facility.

Recycling at the NIH Bethesda Campus

Recycling is mandatory in Montgomery County and is the responsibility of the employee. 
View the Recycling Guide or the NIH Waste Disposal Guide page 14 for additional information and contacts. 

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


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.

An image of an assortment of mixed paper that can be recycled.


 Flatten cardboard boxes and place near centralized recycling bins.

A cardboard box, should be flattened for recycle.


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.

An image of various plastic, metal, and glass bottles and cans that can be recycled together.

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


  • Pipette Tip Racks
  • Wooden Pallets
  • Scrap Metal
  • Construction Debris
  • Toner/Printer Cartridges​ *Benefits NIH Charities*

Can I recycle food containers?

Yes. The food containers 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 commingled recycling bins.

Can I recycle Styrofoam?

Styrofoam is currently not collected for recycling on the Bethesda campus.  In buidlings 10, 35, and 50 Styrofoam coolers from ThermoFisher/Life Technologies are collected for reuse.  Gel Packs that originally came in the ThermoFisher/Life Technologies cooler can be left in the cooler for reuse, as well.

Is cardboard within building 10 being recycled?

In building 10 housekeeping collects cardboard in their blue carts.  Once on the loading dock, the recycling crew seperates the cardboard from the trash.  Cardboard is a mandatory recyclable within Montgomery County.  Businesses that have cardboard within their trash can be assessed a fine.

Are batteries recyclable?

Batteries are collected for recycling through Chemical Waste Services.  Only batteries purchased with government money or used for work purposes should be recycled at the NIH.  For batteries you have at home please contact your county services for disposal guidance.  Links to county websites can be found under the Recycling at Home section.

The majority of items are recyclable, so what should be going in my trash can?

Items such as kleenex, wax paper, and styrofoam (other than ThermoFisher/Life Technologies coolers) should go in your trash can.

How do I recycle CDs and non-accountable electronics?

Non-accountable electronics should be sent through your Property Custodial Officer for your IC.  This is the same person you send computers and accountable property to to be disposed of.  They will go to "surplus" and be sent to our R2 certified recycler for proper disposal.  For more information you can call the Property Management Branch at 301-496-4247.

How much do the blue desk-side bins cost?

The blue desk-side recycling bins are available at no cost to employees on the Bethesda campus.  It is your responsibility to empty the contents into the centralized recycling bins for collection.  You can contact your green team leader or the Recycling Coordinator for more information.

How do I recycle personal cell phones and tennis shoes?

Personal cell phone and tennis shoe collections are coordinated by the Recreation and Welfare Association (R&W).  Cell phone bins are located in various buildings around campus. 

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 (PSC), Administrative Operations Service, provides shredding for federal agencies. 
For more information about PSC 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? 

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 (picture above): Located near elevators, in hallways, and office suites
  • 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 Ariell Lawrence or ESI at 301.402.6349.
  • Hampers: Hampers are for collecting paper products from office clean-outs. Call 301-402-6349  to request delivery and pick-up. 

A set of outside recycle bins.Desk side blue recycle binsA hamper/cart that can be requested for clean outs of large amounts of mixed paper. 


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 64%, which includes both the mandatory and additional recyclables.
  • The NIH recycling rate for the mandatory recyclables (mixed paper, commingled, cardboard, and scrap metal) was 40% for 2013.  The current recycling goal for businesses in Montgomery County is 70% by 2020.
  • The Waste Diversion Rate for FY 2014 was 54%.  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:
Revenue and Cost Offsets from Recyclable Material​s
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, a donation is made towards 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.  Collected toner cartridges for recycle contribute to NIH charities.  For specifics, contact your facility manager

Who do I contact for a recycling bin?

Contact your facility manager to 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.


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.