By Stephanie Holinka

Friday, September 15, 2017

Reusable cups at the Thunderbird cafeteria

Pollution Prevention (P2) Week is Sept. 18-24 this year. From offices, to the cafes, to the laboratories, Sandia is working on meeting an ambitious environmental goal by finding ways to buy smarter, reuse, and recycle.

“Striving for zero waste is more than just recycling. It starts earlier, by making smart choices on purchasing new items that will have a long life and can be recycled at the end of that useful life. It also involves keeping things out of the landfill by reusing items, and only then recycling items at the end of their life,” says environmental technical professional Ralph Wrons (4736).

In 2008, Sandia committed to making the Labs a Zero Waste facility by 2025 for non-hazardous solid waste, which is primarily office waste. Sandia today is at about 70 percent of that goal, reducing waste by more than 380 tons. Additionally, Waste Management has set a goal of half of a pound or less of trash per week per person.

Waste Management periodically audits the trash to see what types of things people are throwing away, and what is going in the trash that really should be reused or recycled.

Many organizations work together to support these goals.

Sandia’s JIT contracts for things like electronics, paper shredding, toner purchase, and others are designed to foster the purchase of items with less toxic constituents, less packaging that must be discarded, and to encourage recycling.

Café improvements

Taher Food Services, Sandia’s new cafeteria provider as of June 2017, is working on several pollution prevention and recycling goals (that were added to the contract scope of work). Dietician Lisa Teves (3334), Sandia’s designated representative for the Taher contract, worked with the new cafeteria provider on ways to make the cafes more environmentally friendly.

Lisa says Taher will phase out Styrofoam use in all its cafes over the next six months. Taher is evaluating replacements that are more environmentally friendly and also economical, since Styrofoam costs a few cents per item, while eco-friendly disposable items can run 40-50 cents per item.

The cafes continue to recycle aluminum cans and plastics at all its locations and continues to compost food waste from the cafes.

Diners can also save the gas it takes to drive to distant lunch locations by ordering their food using dropoff locations at Bldg. 6585, CERL, and Bldg. 823 refrigerator locations and delivered at 11 a.m.

Taher is also offering refillable cups for fountain drinks and coffee, with a discount for refills.

Food composting was initiated with a pilot in 2010, and was expanded in 2012 to the Bldg. 960 café.

Areas to improve

Sandia is doing lots of good things, but there are some areas for improvement, Ralph says, adding that audits have found that mixed paper and rigid plastics 1-7 make up 45 percent of remaining trash.

“We can do better in diverting both mixed paper and the plastics to the recycling bins located throughout the campus,” Ralph says.

Another area that Sandia can do better is re-thinking binder use, he says.

“A huge source of office waste is binders. They aren’t recyclable. When people clean up their offices to move or retire, all those binders that have sat in their office, unused for years, typically go into the trash,” Ralph says.

In addition to the binders, there’s the paper that goes into them.

“With Sharepoint, shared directories, EIMS FileNet, Outlook folders, and personal e-folders, we have very little reason to print paper,” Ralph says. And when we do print it, it’s probably easier to file in marked manila folders, and then placed in file drawers.

“Printing less is also better for information security. The less of that you print, the less rigor you must have with proper disposal of it,” he adds.

Prevent pollution wherever you are

Help Sandia meet its goal wherever you happen to be at the Labs:

In the office

Since office waste is the focus of Zero Waste, focus on preventing office waste before it happens.

  • Avoid Binder waste — Binders are not recyclable. Avoid purchasing binders for printed information that is more easily kept current if stored on the corporate network. If it must be printed, use file folders to store. Consider reusing binders where possible from one of the binder reuse locations.
  • Mindful printing — That meeting agenda that will be discarded shortly after the meeting probably doesn’t need to be printed. Do you need a new printer in your office, or can you use a locally networked Fleet Copier (multifunction for printing, copying, scanning and even fax)?
  • Assess the need for calendars — How much do you use that printed calendar? If it’s not much, consider skipping it for this year.

In the laboratory

  • Recycle plastic bottles — Empty 858 rinse bottles and all plastic bottles that never contained caustic materials are recyclable.
  • Recycle #2 plastics — #2 plastic is the most valuable plastic to recyclers, and is directly 100 percent recycled to new #2 plastic products.