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NSA Goes Green

Nsa Goes Green.  At the National Security Agency, we are committed to protecting the environment.
leafNSA GOES GREEN At the National Security Agency, we are committed to protecting the environment.

NSA Recycles, Refurbishes, and Reuses

NSA and its employees recycle, refurbish, and reuse millions of pounds of materials at the Fort Meade campus every year. There are four broad classes of recyclable or reusable material produced at NSA: facilities-related materials, declassified paper waste, Automated Data Processing Equipment (ADPE), and employee-derived materials.

When it comes to handling waste, NSA excels. A waste diversion rate is the percent of the entire waste stream that is recycled compared to all the generated waste. In 2007, NSA had a waste diversion rate of 68.6%, which means that nearly 70% of all generated wastes were recycled! In comparison, Maryland's diversion rate goal for recycling is 40%, while the goal in Virginia is only 25%. Since 2002, the amount of waste landfilled at NSA has been reduced by 17.5%, while the amount of materials recycled has increased by 75.3%.

The largest amount of NSA recyclables is produced from facilities-related recycled materials. Recycling these materials prevents the use of about 1,650 cubic yards of landfill space. This is equivalent to about 140 large dump truck loads. During renovation projects, most of the raised flooring is salvaged, the carpet is recycled, and the sub-flooring is refurbished and re-installed. The older style of raised flooring is sent out for metal and carpet recycling and the paving materials are reused on-site to repair and re-pave parking lots.

For many years, NSA has been recycling official paper waste through a pulping operation, thus rendering the waste unclassified. Although the workforce calls this "the burn bag process," the process has not involved burning the paper in many years; today, it is pulped in a machine similar to a giant blender. Each year nearly 1,750 tons of paper is recycled into paper pulp which is used to make a wide variety of paper products such as cardboard boxes, egg cartons, and gift boxes, to name just a few. This classified materiel conversion produces the equivalent weight of three pickup trucks in pulp every day. Additionally, every ton of pulp recycled saves about two tons of wood. Therefore, NSA's recycling efforts save over 2,200 50-foot tall southern pine trees!

picture of large recycling shedNSA also has a robust electronics recycling program, with over 1.8 million pounds of electronic equipment recycled to date. This is NSA's third largest category of recyclables and includes computers, monitors, test equipment, and electronic devices such as PDAs. Recycling just one computer monitor can prevent four pounds of lead from being placed in a landfill.

Nearly 47 tons of materials that were once considered hazardous waste, such as lead acid batteries, fluorescent bulbs, and waste oils, are recycled every year at the NSA. Fluorescent light bulbs are hazardous because the bulbs contain small amounts of mercury. Lead acid batteries are hazardous due to the lead casings and the sulfuric acid they contain which can leach into the environment if not properly disposed. In addition to the positive impacts on the environment, the recycling of these materials has reduced NSA's disposal costs resulting in a significant cost savings for the tax payer.

NSA has a robust in-office recycling program for plastic bottles, newspapers, and aluminum cans. In an average year, the NSA recycles over 57 tons of aluminum soda cans and plastic soda bottles, which is approximately the same as two million drinks. The resources saved by reusing the material derived from the recycling of one aluminum soda can equals the energy it takes to power a standard television for three hours. The goal is to continue to provide a program that allows employee participation while reducing the environmental impact through reduction in landfill disposal.


Date Posted: Jan 15, 2009 | Last Modified: Sep 08, 2010 | Last Reviewed: Sep 08, 2010