EPA Sets New Recycling Guidelines

Bradley Jacobsen

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, D.C., established in mid-January final guidelines for government agencies, municipalities and contractors to purchase 18 additional items that are or can be made with recycled materials.

This measure amends the EPA’s 1995 Comprehensive Procurement Guideline (CPG), designating federally funded agencies and contractors to buy products “made of the highest percentage of recovered materials [ldots] and items whose price exceeds $10,000,” the docket states.

“This action should create demand from the waste industry for raw materials in end-use markets, and it ensures that there are markets for those materials in curbside programs,” says Terry Griss, EPA environmental protection specialist.

The ruling will affect 35 federal agencies, 56 states and territories, 1,900 local governments, and about 1,000 contractors. According to the document, the EPA anticipates the guidelines will “result in expanding and strengthening markets for additional materials diverted or recovered through public and private collection programs [ldots] and spur private sector development of new technologies.”

Large and small businesses that supply recovered material to manufacturers and adapt or sell their product lines to agencies will profit. Municipalities that run recycling programs also are expected to benefit.

Further, the action is expected to reduce energy use, air and water pollutants, greenhouse gases and the need for natural resources. According to the order, air pollution reductions near 25 percent have been associated with glass manufactured from recovered materials. Additionally, reductions in water pollutants from steel could reach 75 percent and and aluminum could reach 95 percent.

The EPA’s Economic Impact Analysis report estimates 10-year annual costs will range from $7.6 million to $14.8 million. Cost uncertainty reportedly will derive from annually fluctuating labor rates and product purchase estimates for each agency.

A 1998 Executive Order (13101) requires the EPA to designate items in a CPG, which recommends recovered materials’ content levels for selected items based on “economic and technological feasibility and performance, impact of government procurement, availability and competition, and other uses for recovered materials.”

“The EPA looks at industry info, we look at items government agencies buy yearly, how much they buy, what it is used for, and the recycled content,” Griss explains. The order further requires the EPA “to update the list of items every two years, but we intend to update it annually” he says.

New EPA products listed include carpet cushion, flowable fill, railroad-grade crossing surfaces, park benches and picnic tables, playground equipment, food waste compost, plastic lumber, landscaping timber and posts, solid plastic binders, plastic clipboards, file folders, clip portfolios, presentation folders, absorbents and adsorbents, industrial drums, awards and plaques, mats, signage, and manual-grade strapping.

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