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Environmental Protection Agency recognizes PPPL for reducing waste

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its waste management program, which saved more than $250,000 by diverting 3,766 tons of waste from landfills. 

The agency awarded PPPL the 2016 Federal Green Challenge Regional Award for reducing waste and increasing its combined recycling rate from 84 percent in Fiscal Year 2015 to 97 percent in Fiscal Year 2016.  The award is part of the EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management program, which challenges federal facilities throughout the country to show annual improvements in their environmental stewardship by reducing waste, purchasing sustainable products, and reducing their carbon footprint. 

“This award recognizes PPPL’s sustained commitment to improving its environmental performance,” said Terry Brog, interim director of PPPL. “As a national laboratory in the energy sector, our lab and its people value environmental stewardship. We constantly look at what we buy, what we recycle, and how we dispose of waste such that it has become a fundamental part of how we operate. We are pleased that the EPA recognizes our efforts. It is testament that we are doing the right thing.”  

Third environmental award this year

It was the third award the Laboratory has received from national agencies this year for its sustainable programs. Earlier this year, PPPL received a gold Green Buy Award from the DOE for its green buying program in fiscal year 2016, the fourth such award PPPL has received in the past six years.  The Laboratory also received a U.S. EPA Region 2 Food Recovery Challenge Award for fiscal year 2015 for the Laboratory’s composting program. 

PPPL’s environmental programs include an active recycling and composting program, a program to buy green office and cleaning products, and to reduce its carbon footprint wherever possible by using biofuels in campus vehicles, and other programs. 

PPPL has received numerous awards for its environmental programs over the last several years. The Lyman Spitzer Building, the laboratory’s main administration building, was granted U.S.-LEED Gold certification in 2011. In 2012, the laboratory received a DOE Federal Sustainability award for reducing its greenhouse gases and was named an EPA Waste-Wise Federal Partner of the Year.  In 2013, the laboratory received the New Jersey Stewardship award. 

Almost all construction debris recycled

The Infrastructure and Operational Improvements (IOI) project can take much of the credit for the laboratory’s exceptional recycling rate in FY 2016. The project recycled 98 percent of all the construction debris from the project, amounting to 3,765 tons of recycling with just 114 tons of debris discarded. The debris was 92 percent concrete removed from the C-Site Motor Generator Building’s basement and included clean wood, scrap metal, wires and cables, asphalt, fill dirt, and gravel. It also included equipment stored in dozens of trailers on the campus, which are being cleaned out as part of the IOI project.

“I’m pleased that we’ve been able to put together a solid program with some fairly strong recycling goals and they’re able to meet those goals,” said Les Hill, head of the IOI project. “I’m amazed at how much we’re able to recycle.” 

“Getting an EPA Green Challenge Award is great for the lab,” said Leanna Sullivan, an environmental scientist at PPPL. “It’s good for us and we can inspire other people to do the same thing.” Sullivan said the warehouse staff plays an important role in recycling or re-purposing items stored there. 

Margaret Kevin-King, buildings and grounds supervisor, credits the janitorial staff for their continual efforts to separate recyclables. King, who has been active in trying to make the laboratory more sustainable for the past 20 years, said sustainable practices have become a way of life at the laboratory. “The people who participate in the program aren’t doing it because it’s a DOE mandate; they’re not doing it for recognition. It’s habitual,” Kevin-King said. “They not only practice it here, they practice it at home. My hope is that this recognition will encourage more people to participate, knowing that this is good for the lab, it’s good for the DOE, and it’s good for our future.”   

PPPL, on Princeton University's Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

U.S. Department of Energy
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University.

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