Fermilab recycling numbers are up, but can still improve

Every day, Fermilab does its part to be a good steward for the environment. Fermilab staff work to reclaim natural Illinois prairie, keep the site clean, purchase sustainable equipment and more.

Fermilab also offers a well-rounded recycling program, but not everyone takes advantage of it. During 2011, Fermilab personnel recycled 133.4 metric tons of paper, glass, cans and plastic from their desksides and the cafeteria. That’s only 30 percent of the waste collected – the rest went to a landfill. The laboratory has a separate recycling program for scrap metal, batteries, wood, antifreeze, toner cartridges and other small amounts of recyclable materials. That program, headed by BSS, resulted in 710.03 metric tons of material diverted from a landfill. The numbers have increased since the laboratory began its widespread recycling program, but they can still improve.

“We still see people throwing paper and bottles away in the cafeteria instead of recycling them,” said Enixe Castro, from Clorica Management Corporation, Fermilab’s janitorial contractor. “While that person might think that one bottle won’t make a difference – all of those bottles add up. Every little bit helps.”

Most buildings and laboratory areas have the facilities or receptacles needed to recycle commonly used items. If your division, section or department has a big project involving a lot of recycling materials, an additional container may be provided. Before you throw away anything, stop and think about what you might be adding to a landfill. Can that item be recycled? Below is a list of helpful recycling information.

  • Paper and cardboard: Look for mixed paper bins at your workstation and larger bins or paper dumpsters in your building or work area.
  • Glass, bottles and plastic: Labeled blue bins and bins with green lids are located throughout the site for these items. Fermilab can recycle plastics #1-5. Numbers are usually located on the bottom on the product.
  • Alkaline batteries: Spent batteries can become corrosive as they degrade, creating a problem for landfills. Fermilab employees and users can place their spent alkaline batteries in the dedicated white two-gallon collection pails found throughout the site. If possible, switch to rechargeable batteries to reduce waste.
  • Styrofoam: Recycling locations for clean, white polystyrene #6 packaging material are currently available at the loading docks of Feynman Computing Center, Cross Gallery and the ground floor of Wilson Hall.

Fermilab has implemented incentives for employees to recycle, such as a 20 percent discount for anyone who brings their own mug or cup to use in the cafeteria. Also, the laboratory’s electronics, such as cell phones, computers and printers, are all either recycled or donated for reuse.

Visit the ES&H website for more information about Fermilab’s recycling programs. If you have questions about recycling in your building or area, contact your building manager or Enixe Castro at x2798.