It’s Easy to Recycle at NCI at Frederick

By Paul Stokely, program manager, EHS; images by Richard Frederickson, staff photographer
Photo of single-stream recycling bins and items.

An example of the many items that can be placed into the single-stream recycling bins.

From 2013 through the first quarter of 2018, NCI at Frederick has recycled over 1,667 tons of material, while incinerating or landfilling over 4,273 tons of trash.

This earns us a recycling rate close to 28 percent, which is below the national average of 32 percent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and well below our goal of 50 percent. (These numbers only include operational wastes and not construction debris.)

To help improve our rates, please read the following refresher on our recycling program.

NCI at Frederick offices, shops, and laboratories can recycle their materials in two ways:

  1. Clean office paper, cardboard, glass, metal cans, and most plastic can be recycled by placing them in the single-stream recycling bins located in most work areas.
  2. Batteries, small electronics, printer cartridges, empty chemical containers, and fluorescent bulbs will be picked up by Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) upon request—just email or call 301-846-5718.

For more details on what can or cannot be recycled, please refer to NCI at Frederick’s recycling web page or contact EHS.

Single-Stream Recycling

You can place most common recyclable items in the bins located in lunchrooms, conference rooms, mail rooms, and near copiers. This includes office paper, aluminum cans, cardboard, plastic bottles, clean food containers, and any other items labeled with numbers 1–7. If your laboratory or office is located near an outdoor recycling dumpster, you can also place these materials in them.

Fire regulations prohibit the familiar open recycling bins from sitting in any hallway identified as emergency egress. Facilities Maintenance and Engineering (FME) and EHS have replaced many of these open bins with metal cans.

If you cannot locate any bins or cans near your office, please contact the FME service worker on your floor.

Recycling from Laboratories

EHS requests that employees place clean, empty glass and plastic containers from laboratories in the single-stream recycling bins located indoors. If any residues are left in these containers, contact EHS Waste Management at or 301-846-5718 for pickup. Even if you know the residue is harmless, others handling these materials may not. If the containers can be safely recycled, EHS will do so.

EHS is not able to recycle Tyvek garments or Pyrex, Kimax, and other borosilicate glass labware. Therefore, you should dispose of beakers, flasks, and other borosilicate glass in your laboratory’s broken glass or biohazardous waste box.

Empty pipette tip boxes may be placed in the single-stream recycling bins for recycling.

Electronics and Other Recyclable Materials

Batteries, ultraviolet or fluorescent lights, photo paper or film, scrap metal, and ink and toner cartridges can all be recycled—but not in the single-stream bins or dumpsters. EHS has found vendors who will recycle these products, but they must be handled separately. Contact EHS Waste Management to have them picked up from your location.

Some electronic components can also be recycled if they are at least 50 percent metal by weight and do not have property ID numbers. These can include cables, circuit boards, uninterruptible power supply (UPS) backup power units, and some computer peripherals. Increasingly, these items are made with plastic, and many are simply discarded as trash if the metal content isn’t worth the energy required to extract it. If in doubt, call EHS. For transfer or release of NIH property, contact the Property Accountability Office at

Remember that many of these components, especially UPS units, Bluetooth devices such as wireless keyboards, personal digital assistants (PDAs), cell phones, and many A/V devices, contain small batteries and must not be placed in the trash until the batteries are removed.

What You Can Do to Help

First, order only the items, materials, or supplies you need. Uncertain budget cycles may make it prudent to stock up on many supplies, but much of this ends up in the trash. Consequently, try your best to find a balance. EHS sees a lot of unused kits, supplies, labware, and unopened materials in the trash or in chemical pickups at NCI at Frederick.

Second, take advantage of surplus chemicals—unopened, typically reagent-grade solvents, acids, bases, and other commonly used chemicals are listed on the NCI Surplus Chemical website. The website contains links to manufacturers’ specs to make it easier for you to know what grade of material is in stock. These items are delivered by EHS free of charge.

Finally, all recycling dumpsters are clearly marked with recycling symbols and “No Trash” signage. Wherever possible, these have been set adjacent to trash dumpsters. Please do your best to keep recyclable material out of the trash dumpsters.

If you have any questions about what can and cannot be recycled, please call EHS at 301-846-5718 or go to NCI at Frederick’s recycling page:

Items like these require a call to EHS for pickup.