Environmental Purchasing Programs

Recycling is more than just placing certain materials in a special bin. The recycling loop is complete only when materials that you have separated for recycling are processed and remanufactured into new products, which are then sold. Recycling works only when consumers, businesses and organizations buy products made with recycled material.

Advances in manufacturing technology have enabled most recycled products to compete — both in price and quality — with products made from virgin materials.

Always look at the level of post–consumer recycled content in a product: this is the material that has been collected from consumers and reprocessed. Manufacturers often include pre–consumer material in their total recycled content calculation: this material includes manufacturing scraps, and other by–products that were never used in the consumer market.

How to start a buy–recycled program

Commitment
Make a strong commitment to buy products with recycled–content. Gather support from management, and develop a company policy on buying recycled products.
Guidelines
Use the guidelines established for government procurement of recycled paper and other products when developing your own purchasing policies.
Eliminate Obstacles
Revise bid specifications to require minimum percentages of post–consumer recycled content in products. Remove clauses from specifications that mandate use of virgin materials only.
Keep Quality
Standards High
Vendors should be able to meet your performance requirements due to recent technological improvements. Test recycled products to determine their effectiveness before purchasing them in large quantities, and gradually phase in your program.
Education
Educate employees and customers about your program by including statements like "Printed on 100% Recycled Content Paper with 20% Post–Consumer Content" where appropriate. Place announcements about your company's policies on bulletin boards and in employee newsletters.

Performance
How do recycled content products perform? Recycled content products perform as well as their virgin counterparts. In some instances, they perform better. In many cases, you will not be able to distinguish recycled content products from virgin products.

Availability
Thousands of recycled–content products are available today. Many items from paper to office supplies to building materials to motor oil are available with recycled content. Many supply catalogs already contain a variety of recycled products, so you may be able to "buy recycled" from your current office supply vendor. Check the Buy Green search at the bottom right of the home page.

Find out More
Responsible Purchasing Network offers a list of organizations that certify standards for responsible purchasing. A wealth of additional information on environmental purchasing is available through the Responsible Purchasing Network.