UPDATE: Recycled Purchases Wane, Despite 47 State Laws

COLLEGE PARK, MD - Despite a federal Executive Order that made 100 percent recycled paper purchases mandatory and similar purchasing preference laws in 47 states, there hasn't been enough demand for recycled printing paper and plastic products to "mainstream" recovered material, according to a new report from Raymond Communications Inc., College Park, Md.

"Purchasing Preferences for Recycled Products: A Primer & Guide to Laws," describes and analyzes the nation's policies (as of 1998), and illustrates how 187 governments are recycling paper, promoting source reduction and reducing the use of disposable items.

"After six to eight years, these [purchasing preference] laws were supposed to be phased out," says Michele Raymond, the report's publisher. "The idea was to jump-start recycling markets and to create a demand for recovered material, ending any need for purchasing preferences or set-asides."

This has not happened, according to the report. Approximately 30 states have made efforts to buy recycled copy paper and 13 are using various forms of recycled paper, but only four states have attempted to purchase recycled plastic products, according to an earlier 1997 Raymond survey.

Despite price preferences in 32 states and set-asides in 23, purchases of recycled paper are down from the early '90s. Post-consumer plastic container recycling also declined in 1997.

The President's new Executive Order, signed September 14, 1998, attempts to put some teeth in the federal government's recycled procure- ment policy. According to Federal Environment Executive Fran McPoland, federal auditors will be able to check federal agency compliance with recycled purchasing and issue fines for other environmental law violations.

Based on current research, the report concludes that: * Governments cannot buy enough recycled products to force them into the mainstream.

* There is no incentive for most U.S. businesses to experiment with new recycled products. Few companies are willing to use recycled plastics if they cost more. However, they take credit for using recycled materials that already are mainstreamed.

* States have had to budget for additional staff to implement purchasing laws on recycled products.

* There are barriers to creating large end-markets for used plastics. Most products are "open-loop," construction-type materials in which there are few published specifications.

* Retailers are nearly out of the purchasing loop. Overall, retailers' interest has waned. However, retailers are in the best position to change corporate feedstock practices.

The report suggests that government should concentrate its efforts on source reduction of paper (e.g. improving electronic commerce) and on the continued use of recycled plastics.

The report is available from Raymond Communications Inc. Contact: Michele Raymond, 5111 Berwyn Road #115, College Park, Md. 20740. Phone: (301) 345-4237. Fax: (301) 345-4768. E-mail: [email protected] Website: www.raymond.com