Pacific Southwest, Region 9
Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations
Solid Waste Management on Tribal Lands
Buying Recycled Closes the Recycling Loop
Buying recycled sends a message to industry that recycled products are in demand and helps close the waste circle, helping to ensure that recyclable materials will continue to be recycled and not be wasted. When recyclable materials become the raw materials of industry, they reduce the need for mineral and petroleum extraction and timber harvesting. Less water and energy are typically required to make products from existing (recovered) materials than from virgin materials. When you buy recycled products, you save vital natural resources and help stimulate economic growth through environmentally preferable technologies.
Each individual purchase contributes to resource conservation, as well as to stable markets for the recyclables many communities collect. The following information on buying recycled products assists tribal governments, organizations, and individuals in making a commitment to buy recycled.
Recycled Products Are Everywhere
Many of the products we use daily are made from recycled materials. Cereal boxes, beverage bottles, paint, tissue paper and napkins, copier paper, and floor coverings are examples of products that can be made from recycled materials. If you purchase these items, you may already be buying recycled. Recycled materials also turn up in products that are very different from their original uses, such as carpet made from plastic soda/water bottles and asphalt that incorporates recycled glass.
Setting up a Buy-Recycled Program
Tribal governments, which purchase everything from office paper to construction materials, can set a positive example for their members by instituting a buy-recycled program. An easy first step is to try to “think recycled” whenever making a purchase. Ask office supply stores or catalogs to carry recycled products if they do not already. Look for brands that minimize packaging or that can be re-used. For tribes interested in a formal buy-recycled program, here are the key elements:
- Review Specifications
Tribal purchasing officials can review product and service specifications or policies to identify and eliminate any provisions that require the use of virgin products, or that exclude the use of recycled products.
- Establish Content Standards
Many government agencies have established minimum recycled content standards that apply to their own purchases of certain goods and materials. Guidelines may vary on the minimum percentage of recycled materials required in specific products. For example, President Clinton has issued an Executive Order requiring that paper purchased by federal agencies contain a minimum of 30 percent postconsumer recycled content. Some federal offices, such as EPA Region 9, now require that office paper is 100% post consumer recycled paper, process chlorine free. The best news is that recycled content products don’t necessarily cost more than their virgin counterparts. For potential sources of recycled products, please visit EPA’s Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines website.
- Give Preference to Recycled Products
With current technologies and scales of production, some recycled products cost more than their non-recycled competitors. Eventually, prices for all recycled products are expected to be competitive with products made from virgin materials. Until then, recycling can be supported with price preferences for recycled products. A typical price preference might allow for the purchase of recycled products at 5 to 10 percent higher than the price of comparable virgin products. Another good way to support recycling is to require printers and contractors to submit bids, proposals, and reports on recycled paper, printed on both sides, with removable bindings or staples.
Resources for Buying Recycled
- Recyclers World
- Creating a Successful Buy Recycled Program – State of California
- EPA’s Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines – EPA is required to designate products that are or can be made with recovered materials, and to recommend practices for buying these products.
- Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool – EPEAT is a system to help purchasers in the public and private sectors evaluate, compare and select desktop computers, notebooks and monitors based on their environmental attributes.
- Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) – EPA's Environmentally Preferable Purchasing program encourages and assists federal agencies in purchasing environmentally preferable products and services. The site explains EPA's guiding principles for including environmental performance in purchasing decision-making and posts case studies of successful pilot projects in both the public and private sectors.
- WasteWise – WasteWise is a free, voluntary EPA program through which organizations eliminate costly municipal solid waste, benefiting their bottom line and the environment. The program provides hands-on assistance to members to help them purchase or manufacture recycled-content products, prevent waste, and recycle solid waste materials