Best Practices at EPA's Regional Offices
In This Section
The following waste diversion best practices are employed at EPA’s regional offices across the country:
- Paper Use Reduction
- Regular "Clean-Up" Days
- Other Source Reduction Activities
- Expanding Recycling Options
- Closing the Loop
- Education and Outreach
Yard trimmings and food residuals together constitute 23 percent of the U.S. waste stream. Composting these materials is an effective way of significantly reducing the volume of waste being sent for disposal.
- EPA’s Region 5 Office in Chicago, Illinois, initiated a vermicomposting program in April 2004.
- EPA's Region 9 Office in San Francisco, California, composts food scraps, including meat bones and eggshells, as part of a larger campaign to reduce trash. To make composting and recycling as easy as possible, employees are given a small deskside compost collection container. Materials for composting are picked up and composted by the city of San Francisco and given to local farmers. The resulting food and produce is sold to the city's restaurants.
Several regional offices have come up with innovative methods for reducing their paper use. Some examples include:
- EPA’s Region 1 Office in Boston, Massachusetts, uses "eCopy" copy machines that allow employees to scan paper documents and distribute electronic copies via e–mail. This allows employees to receive, view, and send communications as electronic files on their computers instead of using a traditional fax machine, thus saving paper.
- The Region 9 Office in San Francisco piloted the use of FinePrint© Software. A number of its features, including removing blank pages, unwanted text, and images from documents, and printing multiple pages on a single sheet, help reduce paper use by 30 to 60 percent.
- The Region 10 Office in Manchester, Washington, reuses paper that has print on only one side. The paper, called “Good On One Side” (GOOS), is collected at all printers and copiers, then assembled into note pads, which are distributed and stocked in supply areas. A volunteer records the amount of paper reused. GOOS paper is also being tested in a printer for draft documents.
Passing on unwanted items to others that can use them or finding a new use is a great way to delay disposal. Reuse conserves resources and reduces pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.
- The Region 6 Office in Dallas, Texas, collects magazines in two designated break rooms, one with two boxes and one with two magazine racks for magazine swaps.
- The Region 10 Office in Seattle, Washington, collects several materials for reuse, including used plastic utensils that are cleaned and restocked, reusable party supplies, and old magazines and books that can be reused and exchanged.
- The Region 5 Office in Chicago collects cell phones for reuse and recycling and donates them to women’s crisis centers. The phones are cleaned, tested, and set up for use as 911 emergency phones.
Several of EPA’s regional offices hold regular clean-up days during which employees are encouraged to clean out their desks and filing cabinets and recycle or reuse excess items.
- The Region 1 Office in Boston holds an annual office clean–up day that emphasizes paper recycling and reuse of office supplies. A large, centrally-located display promotes the campaign with colorful signage and photos of the messiest offices before and after the clean–up.
- The Region 8 Office in Denver has routine office–wide cleanup campaigns organized by the recycling coordinator and other volunteers featuring multiple collection locations on each floor for employees to recycle a variety of materials, including phone books, mixed paper, used office supplies, and unwanted personal and household items.
- The library at the Region 2 Office in New York City conducts a monthly clean out of its collection, donating unwanted materials to other libraries, while the rest of the office collects used and unwanted office supplies and redistributes them for reuse.
Source reduction is the practice of designing, manufacturing, purchasing, or using materials in ways that reduce the amount (or toxicity) of trash created—in other words, preventing waste from even being created.
- EPA’s Region 8 Office in Denver limits the number of new phone books delivered to the office each year to reduce unnecessary waste.
- When EPA’s Region 2 closed one of its libraries, it provided all its resources and materials to the library of the Region 2 Office in New York City, preventing a significant amount of potential waste from being landfilled.
- Similarly, the Region 6 Office in Houston, Texas, coordinates with the regional library to send unused materials to other libraries whenever possible. When this is not possible, the librarian recycles the outdated materials.
All EPA facilities recycle common materials (i.e., office paper, aluminum cans, plastic and glass bottles), but the facilities that have achieved the highest waste diversion rates have done so in part by expanding their recycling programs to include other materials. Below are a few examples of materials recycled at highlighted regional offices, as well as other offices not mentioned below:
EPA’s Region 3 Office in Philadelphia collects Tyvek FedEx envelopes and returns them to FedEx for recycling and reuse. For more information on Tyvek recycling, visit the Tyvek recycling page on Waste Management's website.
- Toner Cartridges
The Region 3 Office also maintains a closed–loop toner cartridge recycling system, which allows employees to receive a new toner cartridge by returning the used one. Used cartridges are returned to the manufacturer for reuse or recycling.
- Oil, Refrigerant, Antifreeze
The Region 4 Office in Atlanta collects and recycles oil, refrigerant, and antifreeze from building equipment through its equipment services vendor, Prime Power, Inc.
Both the Region 4 and Region 6 Offices use a specialized device to recycle fluorescent light bulbs. The device crushes the bulbs and an activated carbon filter actively captures and neutralizes the mercury vapor released from the lamps. When the device's 55-gallon drum is full, it is shipped back to the company that manufactures the device, which also provides the service of separating and recycling the glass, aluminum, and mercury to be ready for reuse.
The Region 5 Office in Chicago recycled 426,000 square feet of carpet by returning the removed carpeting to the original manufacturer.
- Books/Bound Publications
The Region 8 Office in Denver maintains a recycling system for bound publications that are collected separately from mixed paper in large green bins. Books are unbound to separate the binding from the publication, enabling the paper to be salvaged and recycled.
The Region 9 Office in San Francisco collects batteries for recycling in the specially designated bins pictured. Alkaline batteries are sent to a battery recycling vendor in San Francisco. Rechargeable batteries are sent to the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation.
- To close the recycling loop, EPA’s Region 5 Office in Chicago buys back products made from its recycled paper. The office has its recycling hauler return the office's recycled paper to the toilet paper manufacturer for producing recycled–content toilet paper, which is subsequently purchased by Region 5's janitorial contractor for use in the building.
Effective communication on program goals and policies and employee training are crucial components of any waste diversion effort. Recognizing this, EPA facilities emphasize education and outreach through strategies such as:
- EPA’s Region 1 Office in Boston organized an internal "Green Team" to reduce the environmental impact of office operations and educate employees about ways to further reduce their impact on the environment outside of the office. The Region 1 Office also hosts an all–day Green Expo each year to coincide with Earth Day. A variety of green vendors set up booths to display and increase awareness of their environmentally preferable products and services.
- The Region 5 Office in Chicago maintains ongoing communication with the janitorial contractor and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) property manager regarding waste reduction efforts. Region 5 shares waste reduction information with other building tenants through regular e–mails and tenant board meetings in an effort to improve the recycling practices of the entire federal facility.
- The Region 10 Office in Seattle has one to four volunteers on each floor that serve as recycling monitors. Signs posted outside their cubicles identify them. The recycling monitors answer questions and police their floor's recycling performance.