|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:
- *Industry must work towards developing products containing recycled content that meet the same or better product specifications than current products and develop technology to utilize recycled materials.
- *Consumers must not only accept, but demand recycled content in packaging and products.
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:
- *Remember that waste prevention or reduction is the most vital part of a college recycling effort.
- *Research state law and university policies. If there is a recycling law, it probably contains a section about price preference on recycled content materials, especially paper. Contact state procurement officials with any questions about purchasing laws as well to see if there is any legislation regarding purchased recycled content/environmentally preferable purchasing.
- *Be familiar with these laws and also check with other colleges in the area to learn about other local collegiate recycling programs. The more information gathered, especially related to economic benefits, the easier it will be to convince the college to take steps to support sustainable practices.
- *Build alliances with the college's purchasing managers and print shop managers.
- *Work with campus purchasing managers to consider purchasing recycled content and environmentally preferable products through education, contracting, tracking, and working with vendors.
- *Work with campus purchasing managers to invite vendors to showcase environmentally preferable and recycled content products. Holding an annual showcase with a guest speaker and discussion is an excellent way to encourage vendor responsibility and educate college purchasers.
- *Start with paper as there are many quality 100% post-consumer recycled papers currently on the market. Post-consumer content is preferred as this is the material that comes from collected recyclables. Pre-consumer content connotes industrial scrap generated before it goes to the consumer, which is lower impact than using virgin materials, but does not support campus recycling efforts.
- *Encourage student initiated projects such as researching available recycled content products.
- *Work to create a campus environmental policy that addresses the purchasing of recycled and non-toxic products.
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:
Electronic mail or other paperless communication
Double-sided copying and printing
Half-sheets of paper for all brief, printed on-campus communications
Short distribution and targeted mailing lists to reduce volume
Reduce printer margin defaults
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
- *Consider life-cost accounting in all purchases.
- *Ask questions such as: Is this product made for longevity? Can separate parts be replaced when something breaks, or does it need to be discarded? How much waste is generated in the acquisition of the products or services? Can the product or service be provided with minimum or no waste generated in the process? Is the packaging recyclable through the college recycling program? Will the vendor take the packaging back for recycling? Is the item recyclable and repairable once it has completed its use?
- *Choose nontoxic products for a safer, healthier work place.
- *Spend a little more money at the onset in order to choose quality, longevity and recyclability. This results in savings in the long run. This indeed ties directly in with attaining “best value.”
- *Choose products that reduce impact on the University and global resources: many choices are available for energy and water conservation. Items such as energy saving copy machines, computers, printers, lights, washing machines, etc. are not only available, but are sometimes less expensive than items without energy/resource conservation features. As new products and technology becomes part of daily life, the impact on energy and water costs are astronomical. Consider purchasing items that reduce the impact on precious resources and make conservation the rule rather than the exception.
- *Buy products made from recycled materials so that we can continue to recycle the products we buy! There are numerous products on the market that not only meet the performance standards of virgin products, but are cost competitive. Some items and services are beginning to incorporate waste into purchasing contracts as well
- *Research purchasing through co-operatives and partnerships.
- *Add a clause regarding waste generation in all contracts for vendors' products and services. Request that packaging be minimal and recyclable. Give preference to vendors who take back recyclable packaging waste and choose durable products with replaceable parts. This is called Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and is a practice in public policy, that has been practiced in Europe for decades. All products coming into Germany, for example, must be manufactured in such a manner as it can be easily deconstructed and recycled. Often EPR requires companies to take back their used products and recover every piece.
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.
- *Inform vendors of the purchasing policy and the school's interest in sustainable items and practices. More companies are incorporating life cost accounting into their products. This includes: producer responsibility for their waste, building products that last, incorporating recycling materials into products and purchasing products that promote resource conservation.
- *Work to create a recycled/environmentally friendly product tracking mechanism on all purchasing forms.
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: http://www.ciwmb.ca.gov/BuyRecycled/
Recycled Content Product Directory: http://www.ciwmb.ca.gov/RCP/
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Environmentally Preferable Purchasing EPA Database
General Services Administration Recycled Products
Green Earth Office Supplies
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
http://www.recyclingdata.com or 1-800-267-0707.
The Recycled Products Purchasing Cooperative (RPPC)
Rice University Integrated Waste Management Services
USDA BioPreferred Program
US EPA Environmental Purchasing Program
US EPA WasteWise Buy Recycled Guide