How can I recycle? Let me count the ways

The Accelerator Division collects styrofoam peanuts in the Cross Gallery high bay for the Shipping Department to reuse. The Shipping Department can reuse almost all kinds of packing material. Before you throw something in the trash or recycling bins, consider if the items could be used elsewhere in the lab. Photo: Katie Kosirog, ESH&Q

We’ve all heard the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle.” Reducing waste is the best option of the three: Purchasing only what you really need means using less resources. Reusing items saves them from being tossed in a landfill, where they are no longer useful to anyone for any purpose.

Recycling is perhaps the easiest alternative to throwing something in the trash. But with many more items that are able to be recycled than before, recycling rules can be hard to follow. What do I do with plastic packaging? Why can’t I put an item with the no. 6 recycle symbol in the recycling bin? And where do I take these items?

One of the goals in Fermilab’s Site Sustainability Plan is to divert at least 50 percent of nonhazardous solid waste by FY2015. Fermilab exceeds this goal, recycling about 75 percent of waste created annually.

But there is always room for improvement. We can all play a part in reducing what goes into a landfill, both at work and at home.

At Fermilab, most everything that can be recycled is recycled. If you have questions about the recyclability of certain items (such as VCR tapes, which can be recycled through our electronics recycling vendor), call your waste coordinator or environmental officer or the appropriate contact:

  • Paper, cardboard, plastic (not no. 6 plastic), bottles, cans and other desk-side recycling: Janitorial, x2798
  • Styrofoam (clean no. 6 white packaging foam only): Transportation, x3132
  • Styrofoam peanuts and other packing material: Shipping, x3171
  • Scrap metal, electronics, printer cartridges and VHS tapes: Property Office, x3585
  • Construction and demolition: FESS, x3876
  • Alkaline batteries: D/S/C environmental officers or waste coordinators
  • Other batteries, light bulbs, oil or antifreeze: waste coordinators and HCTT, x4498
  • Trash: FESS, x3876

Most municipalities have robust recycling programs as well. (Personal items are not allowed to be disposed of or recycled at Fermilab.) Here are some other resources that can help you recycle all that you can at home.

Being sustainable is about more than meeting a goal and saving money. It’s about doing all we can to help reduce negative environmental impacts so future generations can live on a healthy Earth.

Katie Kosirog