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Recycle & Reuse

ORNL continues efforts to conserve resources and reduce the cost of R&D activities through its Pollution Prevention (P2) Program by developing and implementing techniques, technologies, and programs that minimize waste and pollution. First and foremost in preventing waste is source reduction, such as increasing the use of nontoxic or less-toxic alternative chemicals to replace more hazardous chemicals or reducing the amount of materials used, thus improving safety and reducing materials that one day must be managed as waste. The P2 Program encourages all staff members to use less paper and rely on electronic records instead of hardcopy files. After source reduction, ORNL promotes reuse and recycle initiatives. The promotion of source reduction strategies and reuse and recycling opportunities has reaped benefits. In a recent 5-year period, new pollution prevention initiatives have eliminated approximately 65 million kilograms (143 million pounds) of waste.

Source Reduction: From Reuse to Research

Source reduction efforts at ORNL touch all research and support activities and are shared across the nation so others can benefit by applying similar techniques and realize the benefits. For example, one of our researchers took the initiative to identify and implement a more sustainable replacement for xylene by utilizing a nonhazardous solvent. The solution was successfully used as a clearing agent in a histology experiment. This accomplishment improved safety and reduced hazardous waste and will continue to be shared with other research facilities.

Another key contributor to our success in waste reduction is ORNL’s Property Disposition Program which prevents millions of dollars of usable equipment, furniture, and supplies from being sent to a landfill. These efforts not only reduce procurement costs, but also avoid waste disposition costs. Unwanted furniture and equipment can be given a new home at another ORNL office or DOE facility.

  • In a recent 12-month period, ORNL reused more than $6.8 million worth of materials and equipment through redeployments, donations, and transfers.
  • We sell excessed equipment and recyclable material to prequalified partners eliminating waste, avoiding costs, saving manpower, reducing fuel use, and mitigating GHG emissions.
  • We also support the Computers-for-Learning Program (provides excess working computers and related equipment to primary and secondary schools throughout the state) and the Energy-related Laboratory Equipment Grant Program (established by DOE to donate available used equipment to institutions of higher education for energy-related research). These efforts have allowed ORNL to make annual property donations of more than $1.5 million to schools and nonprofit organizations.

Waste from Construction and Remodeling Projects

We integrate pollution prevention into all activities at ORNL including construction and remodeling projects through sustainability clauses that require use of sustainable products and recycle a large portion of project waste and excess materials. Last year 80% of construction and demolition-related waste was diverted from the landfill.

Take Action for Our Earth

The Average American:

  • 4 lbs of waste/day
  • 90 gallons of water/day
  • 25 MMBtu of energy/month
  • 1.7 metric tons CO2e/month

*statistics courtesy of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Choose how you can make a difference...

  • use canvas grocery bags
  • reduce your shower time
  • say no to plastic bags + straws
  • start composting
  • host a clothing swap
  • bike to work
  • bring a reusable coffee cup
  • buy produce package-free