Fermilab’s e-cycling program, helping the environment

E-waste is stored in the Property Office warehouse before being recycled. Fermilab recycles 82,000 pounds of computers and other electronic equipment per year. Click image to enlarge. Photo: Scott Borton, BSS

Recycling at Fermilab involves much more than sorting paper, plastic or cans from the trash, especially when it comes to the lab’s electronic waste. Electronic equipment often contains lead and other hazardous materials that can make traditional recycling methods difficult and costly. Fermilab’s electronics recycling, or e-cycling, program ensures environmental safety and is economically beneficial to the lab.

Fermilab’s electronics recycler, Acme Electronics Recycling Corporation, breaks equipment down into its original components and redistributes the laboratory’s alkaline batteries to a battery processing facility. Plastics go to a plastic recycler and glass to a glass recycler.

“The specified recyclers can then sell the components as raw materials, and the excess is recycled completely—none of it ends up in a landfill,” said Jack Kelly, manager of the Property and Inventory Control Department.

Fermilab’s e-cycling contract is also economically beneficial as the lab receives a percentage for each pound of recycled equipment, which adds up given that the lab recycles 82,000 pounds of electronic waste per year. The contract with Acme Electronics Recycling Corporation also requires that the recycler be R2- (Responsible Recycling) or E-Steward-certified.

Argonne National Laboratory has also joined Fermilab’s current e-cycling program.

“We store Argonne’s material here and send it out for recycling because of storage restrictions currently at Argonne,” Kelly said. “It’s a win-win situation for Argonne” since its previous program was costly, he said.

Fermilab benefits from the consolidation of the programs because the recycler gives the lab a volume break. In addition, shipping costs go down: Since mail runs are already regularly made to Argonne, the electronics piggy-back on those shipments. Katie Kosirog, the recycling coordinator of ESH&Q’s Environmental Protection Group, says that Business Services does an excellent job of making sure that all of Argonne’s and Fermilab’s electronics are recycled in an efficient and responsible manner.

“The first step in environmental stewardship when dealing with waste is to think of ways to reduce it by only purchasing products that you need and to look for greener products,” Kosirog said. The second step is reuse, she said. Business Services has donated used computing equipment through the U.S. General Service Administration’s Computers for Learning program.

“I’m proud of the electronics recycling program Fermilab has in place,” Kosirog said. “Each employee involved has contributed to making this place more environmentally sustainable.”

For more information on recycling, contact your D/S/C waste coordinator or see the Fermilab ESH&Q Environmental Officer Web page.

J.B. Dawson