Program in Recovery

THIS ELECTION YEAR, the Bush Administration seems anxious to buff its environmental record, even at the cost of giving credit to Bill Clinton.

On April 30, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, D.C., issued a final rule amending its Comprehensive Procurement Guideline (CPG) by designating seven new items that are or can be made with recovered materials.

The CPG implements portions of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and complies with an executive order, “Greening the Government Through Waste Prevention, Recycling and Federal Acquisition,” signed in 1998 by then-President Clinton. RCRA and the executive order require the EPA to specify items made from materials recovered from solid waste and to recommend practices that federal, state and local agencies can use to procure these items. Under RCRA, when the EPA designates an item, any procuring agency that uses federal funds to buy that item must look for the highest percentage of recovered materials practicable.

The newly designated items include modular threshold ramps, nonpressure pipe, roofing materials, office furniture, rebuilt vehicular parts, bike racks and blasting grit. At the same time, the EPA has revised the designations for cement and concrete, railroad grade crossing surfaces and polyester carpet. For cement and concrete, the EPA now is adding cenospheres and silica fume as recovered material options. Recovered wood and plastic now are deemed acceptable for rail crossings, while polyester carpet is designated for moderate end-uses only, as defined by the Carpet and Rug Institute, Dalton, Ga.

Section 6002 of RCRA identifies the procuring agencies subject to the federal buy-recycled program: any federal agency; any state or local agency using appropriated federal funds for procurement; or any contractors of these agencies who are procuring these items for contracted work they perform and are using federal money to do so. These agencies are subject to the requirements only when their purchase of designated items amounts to at least $10,000 in a year.

The EPA estimates that the rule will apply to 35 federal agencies, all states and territories, some 1,900 local governments, and about 1,000 contractors. EPA concludes that the economic impact on small businesses will not be significant. The agency notes an exception for purchases that are “incidental to” the purposes of the contract — that is, not the direct result of the funds disbursement. For example, a waste disposal contractor at a federal facility is not required to purchase re-refined oil and retread tires for its fleet because the purchases of these items are incidental to the contract's purpose.

Between 1983 and 1989, the EPA issued five guidelines for the procurement of products containing recovered materials. These products included cement and concrete containing fly ash, paper and paper products, re-refined lubricating oils, retread tires and building insulation. The first CPG was published in 1995. It established eight product categories and designated 19 new items in those categories.