LBL Waste Minimization Program

June 4, 1993

By Jeffery Kahn (

LBL's waste minimization program, launched in 1992, is beginning to pay off, and has received an award from the Department of Energy.

According to Shelley Worsham, a waste minimization specialist with the Environment, Health, and Safety Division, the comprehensive program involves a change in our purchasing habits as well as continued improvements in the Lab's recycling program.

The DOE Solid Waste Recycling and Affirmative Procurement Award received by LBL recognizes the collective efforts of the Lab's employees to reduce our solid waste stream. In addition to Worsham, key employees involved in this effort are Monte Clevenger, Charlie Koop, Pat Marshall, Bruce Nordman, Bonnie Rasmussen, Gavin Robillard, David Saucer, and John Speros.

Worsham says that the Lab generates about 550 tons of office waste a year (mostly paper) which is trucked three times a week to the Sutta Company of Oakland for recycling. As of June 1992, 80 percent of this waste was recycled with the remainder taken to the landfill.

Since that date, LBL employees have begun placing food wastes and other wet wastes in separate trash cans lined with blue bags. Segregating the wet wastes allows more of the salvagable trash to be recycled. The percentage of waste recycled has risen to between 85 and 92 percent, diverting an additional 10 to 35 tons from the landfill into recycled products.

"We've had a number of questions about what should be placed in these blue-bagged receptacles," said Worsham. "Put in any leftover food, coffee grounds, tea bags, items with food residue, soiled napkins. Everything in these containers goes to the landfill. Put your empty cans, glass, and recyclable plastic containers in your regular trash can. Make sure they are empty -- some plastic items such as yogurt containers should be rinsed before disposal."

Offices that do not have a separate receptacle for wet waste can set up such a system by contacting their custodian.

Office waste represents perhaps only a quarter of the solid waste produced by the Lab. Most of this other trash, collected in large dumpsters around the Hill, is trucked directly to the landfill. However in 1992, the Lab succeeded in recycling 194 tons of organic debris, personal computer boards, metal drums, tires, toner cartridges, wax, and Lucite. Additionally, LBL managed to reuse many of the styrofoam peanuts received with incoming products by packing them with materials being shipped offsite.

To further minimize waste, LBL has a program to purchase and encourage the use of environmentally benign products as well as items made from recycled materials. The LBL Recycling Procurement Committee is investigating what products are available and is helping to introduce the best of these products and promote their use.

In the 1992 fiscal year, LBL purchased $850,528 of paper products of which $98,479 were recycled materials. Worsham says significantly more recycled products will be used at LBL this year. She says Stores is now setting up a system where recycled paper products would become standard items to fill orders for Xerox paper, letterheads, forms, envelopes, and boxes.

The largest use of paper at LBL (as well as in government) is for copying machines. Stores now stocks recycled copy paper, which it lists as stock item #7530-72136. Made by Weyerhaeuser, the paper is made from 50 percent scrap materials and 10 percent materials previously used by consumers.

Additionally, the first few pages of the Boise Cascade catalog now list recycled products available through Stores.

The LBL printing facilities in the Technical Information Department currently is experimenting with the use of soy-based inks. These new inks are considered more enivronmentally benign than regular inks that require the use of solvents.

Over the long term, LBL hopes to reduce its use of paper. Currently, the Human Resources Department and Stores are phasing in electronic forms, eliminating multiple-copy paper forms where practical.