Pollution Prevention and Waste Reduction

As outlined in Executive Order (EO) 13693, Planning ​for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, the goal of pollution prevention and waste reduction is to advance prevention methods to reduce pollution and waste by the following measures:

  • Reporting in accordance with (IAW) the requirements of Sections 301 through 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) of 1986 (42 U.S.C 11001 through 11023).
  • Annually diverting at least 50% of non-hazardous solid waste (including food and compostable material but not construction and demolition debris).
  • Annually diverting at least 50% non-hazardous construction and demolition material and debris.
  • Reducing or minimizing the quantity of toxic and hazardous chemicals and materials acquired, used, or disposed of.

To demonstrate progress in pollution prevention, waste reduction, and overall sustainability, NIH publishes an annual Sustainability Implementation Plan (SIP) and reports progress to their parent government agency, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). HHS adheres to the requirements in Section 14 of EO 13693 and publishes an annual Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan to demonstrate overall agency progress.

Waste Reduction at NIH

Waste recycling continues to be an active and growing program at NIH. For example, non-hazardous waste recycling diversion rates ranged from 13% to 82% across the seven NIH facilities resulting in an NIH-wide recycling diversion rate of 40% for FY 2015 (See Chart 1 below).

NIH Wide 2015 Fiscal Year Non-Hazardous Solid Waste Diversion (40%)

Another example is NIH-wide construction and demolition recycling diversion rate, which was 92.2% in 2015.

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 additional NIH programs and initiatives are actively promoted, reinforced, and expanded:

  • Bethesda Campus multi-building Life Technologies Styrofoam collection and reuse program.
  • Mercury Amnesty collection events at all NIH facilities.
  • Delivery of desk-side and common area recycling containers to offices and laboratories.
  • The Surplus Chemical Redistribution Program focuses on unused reagent chemicals for reuse. 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.
  • For example, the Bethesda campus solvent recycling program (xylene, ethanol, and formalin) continues to grow in customer base and cost savings (see Chart 2 below).
  • NIEHS campus details performance and progress in waste recycling as part of a leading environmental stewardship program.
  • Promote purchasing of safer environmentally preferable alternatives.  See Substances of Concern.
NIH Bethesda 2015 Fiscal Year Solvent Recovery ($44.5K in Procurement 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.

​​​Click here to view the 2017 NIH Sustainability Implementation Plan

Click here to view the NIH Sustainability Goal PoC list​​​

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