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National Science Foundation

The U.S. Antarctic Program recycles more than four times as much of its waste as does the typical community in the United States. Every person at a U.S. station or field camp receives training in waste management within a week of arrival and is required to dispose of materials properly. Following is the list of recycle categories used at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Antarctica. The other stations use similar lists.



Glass includes cleaned food and beverage containers and is sorted by color (clear, green, and brown). Sorting of the different colors is not required by the individual. Do not mix broken glass with the non-broken glass. If broken, segregate the glass as Construction Debris. All glass will be sorted and crushed prior to shipment.


Aluminum generally consists of beverage cans which are crushed into bales by Waste Management. All cans should be rinsed and cleaned whenever possible. Tobacco and cigarettes should never be disposed of in an aluminum can.

White Paper

White paper includes computer paper and copy paper. All white paper should be reused until both sides are printed on and has outlived its usefulness.

Heavy Metal

Metal is generally segregated by thickness of the material either by light (less than 1/4") or heavy (greater than 1/4"). All metal exceeding 1/4" will be loose loaded into flatracks [big containers suitable for use on a ship]. Heavy metal should be stripped free of material debris and petroleum products and must not be contaminated by residual petroleum products.


Cardboard consists of various sized boxes or packages which will be crushed into bales. Food-contaminated cardboard is not acceptable and must be segregated as Combustible (Burnable) waste. All cardboard boxes should be reused until the life of the box has deteriorated beyond being acceptable reuse.

Light Metal

All metal less then 1/4" will be considered light metal and crushed into bales. The metal should be stripped free of excess material, residual food contamination, and/or residual contamination from petroleum products. Most light metals consist of metal cans and metal strapping. KEEP METAL BANDING SEPARATE.


Wire does not need to be stripped of its plastic coating.

Copper & Brass

All copper and brass must be free of residual petroleum products and excess material.


Product Containers

Product containers will contain domestic household items such as toothpaste, deodorants, etc. Such domestic items do not contain hazardous chemicals and/or toxic substances.


Suitable fabrics can be laundered and shredded for use as rags in the facilities and vehicle maintenance service shops.


Magazines, newspapers, catalogs, and books will either be placed in a public place for others to read or will be carried with the owner on his/her departure from Antarctica.


Plastics include styrofoam, polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), mylar. We do not segregate the different types of plastics except that food-contaminated plastic and empty hazardous plastic containers are not to be included in this category. Styrofoam normally originates as packaging material, PVC from scrapped pipe, and mylar is used in the aviation shops. Polyethylene grade plastic is generally used in consumer care product containers and sheeting. All plastics are to be placed in the proper receptacles for collection.

Construction Debris

Construction debris includes non-salvageable materials of all types which are generated from the general use, construction, renovation, and/or demolition of a building, facility, or structure. The debris consist of drywall, miscellaneous wood attached to the debris, concrete roofing materials, and other miscellaneous items as designated by the Safety Environment & Health Division.

Wooden Shipping Crates & Wood

Wooden shipping crates, if undamaged (i.e. all four sides intact) will be salvaged and reused for waste shipments at all stations. Damaged crates, pallets and wood will be collected by Waste Management for reuse. If pallets are damaged beyond reuse, they will be ground up into a wood pulp.

Grey Water & Urine

Grey water and urine will be collected in grey and yellow 55-gallon bung-top barrels. A 6" freeboard shall remain in each barrel to allow for expansion as the fluid freezes. If a drum is ruptured in any way, it must be contained in an 85-gallon overpack drum. Under no circumstances should this waste be containerized in 55- gallon drums that are not polylined or that have been contaminated with a foreign substance. All barrels must be clearly labelled to avoid the possibility of generating an unknown-waste barrel. The label will include the work center name and building number plus the type of waste in the drum (urine or grey water). NO used oil/miscellaneous barrels are to be used for this type of waste. If used oil/miscellaneous barrels are used, then the drum must be shipped to the United States as hazardous waste. This will significantly increase the cost of disposal. USE SEWAGE SYSTEM OR USE APPROPRIATE BARRELS.

Human Feces

Human feces which cannot be disposed of within the station sewer system will be containerized in open-top drums. Recommended packaging of the waste is a 20-gallon poly lab pack or a 55- or 85- poly-lined open top drum. Use 3 polyethylene liners to line the outer triwall container [a triwall is a sturdy cardboard box about 4 feet on a side]. The container must be properly labeled with the type of waste and the work center. The waste will not be accepted without the proper labels. USE SEWER SYSTEM OR USE 15-GALLON POLY LAB PACK.

Case Lots of Canned Foods

Case lots of canned foods [they become waste if stored too long] will be packaged in a triwall with one 6 mil polyethylene liner. CALL WASTE MANAGEMENT.

Case Lots of Frozen Foods

Case lots of frozen foods will be packaged in triwalls and must be kept frozen. Special arrangements must be made prior to shipment. The foods will be shipped in special refrigeration vans which are designed to deep the food frozen throughout the transit. CALL WASTE MANAGEMENT TO PLACE IN REEFERS.


Domestic Combustibles (Burnables)

Combustibles include food containers, food wrappers (e.g. yogurt containers, burrito wrappers, potato chip bags, etc.), paper towels, tissues, tobacco products, and cardboard that is food-contaminated.

Galley Food Waste

Galley food waste will be packaged in triwalls lined with 3 layers of 6-mil polyethylene gusseted bags. Only triwalls which are less than 45 cubic feet in size should be used to contain this waste. Two liners plus tied bags of waste in the triwalls are acceptable.

Cooking Oil/Lard

Cooking oil/lard must be placed in an open-top 55-gallon drum. The open top drum allows for ease of emptying the lard at the recycling facility.

Food-Contaminated Containers

Food-contaminated containers include aluminum foil, unwashed metal and glass containers, and containers that are not emptied or rinsed. Every effort should be made to rinse or clean the container prior to separating. This category is extremely expensive to manage since the container must be sterilized prior to disposal. Must be kept separate and placed in a double lined triwall.


Dormitory Biological Waste

All waste consisting of blood-contaminated materials (bandages, cotton tissue, feminine hygiene waste, etc.) will be packaged in red biological/medical waste bags and labelled DORMITORY BIOLOGICAL WASTE. The bagged waste will be placed into a lined 55-gallon open top drum and segregated from the remainder of all other waste.

Domestic Hazardous Waste

Domestic hazardous waste is collected in the dormitories and housing facilities. The items consist of such waste as empty prescription containers, fingernail polish, polish remover, aerosols (substance remaining or empty) and other items which contain a hazardous material or toxic substance.


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