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How NASA Langley Stays Mostly Out of the 'Dumps'
Waste treatment has come a long way since the creation of landfills, or 'dumps,' which are mostly composed of non-biodegradable waste that takes a long time to decompose. One example is the Bethel Landfill in Hampton, Va., which is used by local municipalities and NASA's Langley Research Center. The 400-acre landfill takes in about 1,200 tons of debris each day for burial.


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For Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12), NASA Langley achieved a 93 percent Landfill Conversion Rate, keeping a vast majority of the center's solid waste out of landfills. Credit: NASA

Of all of the solid waste created by the center's ongoing construction, 3,500-plus employees and 290-plus facilities, NASA Langley added only 7 percent of its waste to the landfill in Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12).

Each year, the Standard Practice and Environmental Engineering Branch compiles recycling data for annual reporting to NASA Headquarters. The report revealed that NASA Langley achieved an overall landfill diversion rate of 93 percent last year, a 10 percent improvement from FY11. The report includes recycled Construction and Demolition (C&D) debris; recyclable items such as paper, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles; and solid waste sent to the Refuse-fired Steam Generating Facility. This facility on Wythe Creek Road operates through a cooperative agreement between Hampton and NASA Langley for on-site steam generation.

NASA Langley exceeds the Federal goal of recycling at least 50 percent of C&D debris, as required by Executive Order 13514. The center recycled or reused 97 percent of its 2,847,000 lbs. of C&D debris generated in FY12. To maintain high recycling percentages for C&D, all of the center’s demolition contracts include a requirement to recycle facility debris to the maximum practical extent.

C&D debris are used in a manufacturing process to make a new product or as an effective substitute for materials used in a commercial product.

"For example, asphalt roofing shingles can be ground and used as paving products, or gypsum wallboard from new construction can be ground and used as an agricultural soil amendment," explained Dave Steigerwald, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) support contractor in the Standard Practice and Environmental Engineering Branch.

According to Steigerwald, Langley recycled over 889,000 pounds of recyclables (excluding C&D debris) and burned over 1,542,000 lbs. of non-hazardous waste to generate steam for use by center facilities in FY12.

Steigerwald explained that the center also has an active program that recycles items usually found in a solid waste stream. These items include white paper, mixed paper, cardboard, toner cartridges, aluminum cans, plastic bottles, and scrap metal.

Ultimately, these recycling efforts at NASA Langley are contributing more to the Earth's well being, and less to the 'dumps.'

By: Denise Lineberry

The Researcher News
NASA Langley Research Center
Editor & Curator: Denise Lineberry
Executive Editor & Responsible NASA Official: Rob Wyman