As outlined in Executive Order (EO) 14057, Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs Through Federal Sustainability, the NIH shall reduce waste and pollution by:
- minimizing waste, including the generation of wastes requiring treatment and disposal,
- advancing pollution prevention,
- supporting markets for recycled products, and
- promoting a transition to a circular economy by annually diverting from landfills at least 50% of non-hazardous solid waste (including food and compostable material and construction and demolition waste and debris) by FY2025 and by annually diverting at least 75% by FY2030.
To demonstrate progress in waste reduction and pollution prevention, NIH publishes an annual Sustainability Plan (SP) and reports progress to their parent government agency, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). HHS adheres to the requirements of EO 14057 and EO 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, and publishes an annual Sustainability Plan to demonstrate overall agency progress.
Waste Reduction at NIH
Waste recycling continues to be an active and growing program at NIH. For example, the NIH recycled 66% of non-hazardous solid waste in FY2021. The NIH Property Management Office continues to support waste management objectives by partnering with the Division of Environmental Protection in promoting property reutilization and recycling of electronics and other office equipment/supplies at outreach events such as Earth Day and America Recycles Day.
The following NIH programs and initiatives promote waste reduction:
- Bethesda campus soft plastic film recycling collections.
- Delivery of desk-side and common area recycling containers to offices and laboratories.
- The NIH Surplus Chemical Redistribution Program provides free unused and unexpired reagent chemicals for reuse at NIH labs. These are advertised on the NIH GreenServe in 4 different languages and the NIH Free Stuff website; surplus chemicals are delivered to customers as part of the program.
- The NIH Solvent Recovery Program (xylene, ethanol, acetone, and formalin) continues to grow in customer base and cost savings.
NIH Environmental Audit Program
The NIH Environmental Audit Program is a pollution prevention strategy that takes a comprehensive and systematic look at facility, program areas, and media and identifies findings for corrective action. The NIH Audit Program incorporates both Environmental Management Systems (EMS) (ISO 14000) and Regulatory Compliance audits. The findings not only help highlight prevent pollution opportunities, but also identify potential compliance and regulatory issues.
NIH Pollution Prevention and Waste Reduction Strategies
At NIH, opportunities to further reduce waste and prevent pollution are advanced through the following strategies:
- Report in accordance with Sections 301-313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986.
- Reduce or minimize the quantity of toxic and hazardous chemicals acquired, used, or disposed of, particularly where such reduction will assist the agency in pursuing NIH GHG reduction targets.
- Eliminate, reduce, or recover refrigerants and other fugitive emissions.
- Reduce waste generation through elimination, source reduction, and recycling.
- Implement integrated pest management and improved landscape management practices to reduce and eliminate the use of toxic and hazardous chemicals and materials.
- Develop or revise Agency Chemicals Inventory Plans and identify and deploy chemical elimination, substitution, and/or management opportunities.
- Inventory current hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) use and purchases.
- Require high-level waiver or contract approval for any agency use of HFCs.
- Ensure HFC management training and recycling equipment are available.