Chapter 11
Buy Recycled and Environmentally Preferable Products

Make your motto: Buy recycled products so we can recycle the products we buy.

 For a long time, recycled materials have been used in production of new materials, and yet, this was not a recognized effort. Products like paper bags, newspapers and cardboard, have always contained some recycled content, though they were never labeled as such. This recycled material came from collecting newspapers for fundraisers and other similar sources. That seemingly insignificant effort kept recycled content included in items in minimal proportions. These fundraisers generated a small amount of material that kept the price of recyclables at a level that helped community groups. At that point, recycling markets were not really an issue. It is amazing that recyclables were collected before markets were fully developed and, therefore, incredible that recycling survived.

 As more people jumped on the recycling bandwagon, markets became taxed as the traditional uses for recycled materials were saturated. Truly, sales of recycled material would be easier to negotiate if markets were developed along with recycling collection. In order for this to happen:

With the increased pressure and growth in recycling collection, recycling will only work if there is a market for the products that come from the reprocessed recyclables.  This is directed by consumer demand for recycled products. 

These efforts also must be supported through legislation. Recycling legislation is becoming more common in states while the federal government is also taking steps toward legislation. Such laws typically establish community “opportunity to recycle” rules. The recycled product purchasing portion typically relates to government (including state higher education institutions) purchases. It usually includes an acceptable price variance for choosing recycled content over virgin materials. These laws are guided by the recycling symbol. 

The symbol that represents recycling features three arrows chasing each other. This "loop" illustrates how recycling is dependent on consumers to not only recycle what they use, but also to purchase recycled products.  The arrow is coming to mean: “market development, purchasing, and recycled materials collection” in addition to its traditional meaning of “Reduce. Reuse, Recycle.”

 Colleges and universities purchase millions of dollars worth of products and services annually. This in turn generates millions of pounds of garbage. In establishing a campus recycling effort, it is important to support markets for recyclables through purchasing, while reducing waste through vendor contract specifications. Another bonus is that the environmental responsibility is being extended beyond waste reduction to create a safe environment through purchasing non-toxic products. 

 Purchasing on college campuses is an action in which waste reduction can play a vital role in reducing costs for managing a recycling program, while stimulating a demand for recycled content, packaging, and products. Reducing costs in areas other than disposal fees will also create an opportunity to demonstrate smart economics by incorporating waste reduction and recycling into college practices.

 Here are some things you can do to stimulate the purchasing of recycled, recyclable, and environmentally preferable products on your college campus:

Sample Environmentally Responsible Purchasing Policy
The University of ________________ of recognizes that one of the primary methods of exercising its commitment to environmental responsibility is through its purchasing choices. The University will strive to obtain maximum value for its expenditures and will work towards obtaining the "best value," balancing short and long term costs, maintenance, life cycle, and environmental costs in purchasing goods and services.

A. The University acknowledges that environmentally responsible purchasing choices will help create and sustain markets for environmentally responsible and recycled content products.

B. The University commits to the goal of making environmentally and fiscally responsible purchasing choices that consider life cycle costs, long term implications, and relative environmental harm of products.

C. Purchasing policies will encourage obtaining products that minimize waste products, have high recycled content, use environmentally conscious production methods, and demonstrate maximum durability, reparability, biodegradability, energy efficiency, non-toxicity, and recyclability.                                              

Sample College Recycled Paper Policy (University of Oregon)

Title: Recycled Paper Policy
Purpose: This policy coordinates University use of recycled paper with statewide executive orders.
As a sub policy of the University of Oregon's Campus Environmental Policy, it is the policy of the University of Oregon to purchase and use recycled paper products in its operations in accordance with Executive Orders EO-98-07 and EO-00-07. This policy requires the purchase and use of paper products made from post-consumer waste materials when such products are of a quality to satisfy applicable specifications, are available in the desired quantity within a reasonable period of time, and are priced competitively.

For the purposes of this policy, "recycled paper products" include "tree-free" paper content and must contain one or more of the following environmental characteristics:

a) High levels of post consumer waste (PCW)

b) Any virgin fiber used is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified and does not come from forests that are endangered or threatened

c)  Sourcing from mills employing the cleanest possible production including Process Chlorine Free (PCF) methods

Any University of Oregon request for bids or quotes for purchase of paper products, including authorized printing from outside vendors, shall include a solicitation of bids or quotes for recycled paper and papers that have not been bleached with elemental chlorine or other hazardous materials. No specification shall require the use of paper products made exclusively of virgin materials, nor specifically exclude the use of recycled paper or tree-free products.  

Unless otherwise specified, University Printing and Mailing Services will provide and use elemental chlorine-free (ECF) recycled paper with 100% post-consumer content. At a minimum, all University paper products shall consist of t least 30% post-consumer content and be elemental chlorine-free (ECF).  

The purchasing of 100% post-consumer content paper is encouraged for sustainability. 100% PCW paper is competitive in price, and compatible with all copiers purchased through the State of Oregon contract. Use of heavily dyed and neon papers is discouraged and damaging to the environment and recycling process.

University Printing and Mailing Services shall have the authority to specify the minimum recycled content standard in bid solicitations to accomplish the purpose of this policy. The default for all university office equipment that uses paper, such as copiers, printers and fax machines, shall be set to comply with this policy (minimum 30% PCW and ECF), and be in compliance with the State of Oregon policy guidelines.

Every effort will be made to eliminate excessive or unnecessary paper use. Strategies for doing so include:

In accordance with the guidelines stated above in this policy, the official stationery program as shown in "Graphic Style of the University of Oregon" shall be determined by the Office of Design and Editing Services and University Printing and Mailing Services, with approval by the Environmental Issues Committee. The use of heavily dyed paper, or other paper which requires special handling for recycling, will be subject to additional charges.

Actions that Purchasing Managers Can Take

Remember: waste management is an expensive operating cost for all institutions. Items are brought in from outside the college, so reducing waste management costs is a true savings. 

 Unfortunately, garbage costs are usually accepted without question. Many administrators see recycling as an extra cost instead of a savings. Additionally, waste generation is not factored into profit oriented items sold on campus. For example, when a student union negotiates a contract for a particular item, the student union receives the profit and the college recycling program picks up the tab for the waste generated. Some colleges are implementing vendor waste taxes on for-profit items on campuses in order to create and increase vendor responsibility.     

 Purchasing practices have a huge impact on the waste stream. Working with purchasing managers to recognize this economic impact is critical in bringing college recycling full circle. Recycling is still just one step away from the garbage can. College recycling programs need to consider waste reduction, reuse and waste generation in order to maintain effective recycling efforts.


American Petroleum Institute 

Buy Recycled 2000 Update 

California Integrated Waste Management Board
            Buy Recycled Programs:
            Recycled Content Product Directory:

The Carbohydrate Economy 

City of Seattle "Green Purchasing Program" 

Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines 


Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance (DPPEA)


Environmentally Preferable Products Listserv
Contact: Rebecca Bartlett at NERC-802-254-3636 or

 Environmentally Preferable Purchasing EPA Database

 General Services Administration Recycled Products

Green Earth Office Supplies 

Green Seal 

Interface Inc. 

Living Tree Paper Company 

The National Association of Educational Procurement 

National Association of State Procurement Officials (NAPSO) 

National Association of State Procurement Officials Green Purchasing Guide 

The Natural Step 

Office of the Federal Environmental Executive                                                                                                                                   

Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center (PPRC) 

Paper Recycling Coalition

 Product Policy Institute 

Reach for Unbleached (RFU) 

The Recycling Data Network or 1-800-267-0707.  

The Recycled Products Purchasing Cooperative (RPPC) 

Rethink Paper 

Rice University Integrated Waste Management Services

USDA BioPreferred Program 

US EPA Environmental Purchasing Program  

US EPA WasteWise Buy Recycled Guide