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 2014, NSA had a waste diversion rate of 68% which means that nearly 70% of all generated wastes were recycled! In comparison, Maryland's diversion rate for recycling is 49%, while Virginia is only 41%.
NSA recycles more than 1,000 tons of metals from new construction and renovation projects.
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. Last year nearly 1,213 tons of paper was 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 more than 1,000 50-foot tall southern pine trees!
NSA also has a robust electronics recycling program, with over 192 tons recycled just in 2014. This NSA large category of recyclables 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 92 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 more than 160 tons of aluminum soda cans, newspapers and plastic soda bottles in 2014 alone. 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.