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Recycling Procurement Program

Product Performance Testing -- Wisconsin Pilot & Research Projects

Origination Date: April 27, 1998
Revision Date: October 27, 1999

Product performance questions may be addressed in four general ways:

  1. If an applicable standard specification is available, a recycled product may be tested for compliance with that standard.

    1. A vendor may be asked to supply documentation; or

    2. Specifications may require independent testing; or

    3. Specifications may rely on independent testing by a third party, and such testing may result in a formal Qualified Products List.

  2. A purchasing office may make a trial purchase to see if an alternative product meets end users’ needs. More formal pilot studies may encourage, coordinate, and evaluate product use in several agencies.

  3. Performance/research studies done by comparable purchasing entities (such as other states) may be enough to satisfy performance doubts.

  4. Specifications may state performance requirements and stipulate evaluation and return procedures.

In Wisconsin, our performance tests range from informal agency trials to EPA funded research. Following is a summary of our efforts in common state commodities. For information on state efforts to use recycled products in roadbuilding or other highway related applications, contact Joe Wilson, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, at (608) 246-7955. For information on recycled products used in new building construction or major remodeling projects, contact the DOA Division of Facilities Development at (608) 266-2731.

COMPUTER ROLLS (1994-1995)
Recycled paper rolls for high-speed computer printers. After a series of user tests ended favorably in 1995, our supplier suddenly encountered availability troubles. Depending on your forms supplier, availability may still be a problem, but performance should be fine.

With industry and end-user involvement, performance standards, testing protocol and specifications were developed for recycled copy paper. Using EPA funding, all brands of paper were tested in order to develop Qualified Product Lists for state and regional cooperative bid specifications. Although somewhat dated by now, copies of the final report may still be available from Susan Mooney, EPA Region V, at (312) 886-3585.

Glassine window envelopes were added to the state envelope contract, and were the first choice for about a year. The original reasoning was that glassine window envelopes were more recyclable than the plastic ones. Extensive testing satisfied post office OCR requirements, however at that time each local post office made its own determination of acceptability. Our biggest problems arose from processing envelopes that twisted and jammed in automatic sorting machinery. Occasional post office rejections were finally too much for most agencies to stand. Meanwhile, de-inking technology has changed such that plastic window envelopes are no longer perceived as a recyclability problem, so the state is no longer promoting glassine window envelopes.

Groundwood computer forms were tried in various printers. ("Groundwood" refers to the process source of fiber; groundwood forms are easily recognizable because the paper is similar to newsprint; groundwood forms are much less expensive than register bond.) In our first round of testing, groundwood forms seemed fine for desktop impact printers, but were generally unacceptable for production printers. Our biggest headache was trying to get agency users to understand the difference between groundwood and register bond and to identify appropriate printer uses. In recent tests with paper produced by Manistique Paper Mill (converted by Performance Computer Forms) the groundwood product ran great on several high-speed computer printers. Pending the results of Manistique testing in other jurisdictions, the use of this product will be expanded.

Kenaf paper is manufactured from the kenaf plant, not wood pulp, so it has gained some popularity as "tree-free" paper. Although it is not a recycled product, we tried kenaf paper in a variety of office copying and duplicating machinery, and it seemed to run fine. The off-white brownish color will always be appealing to some, a problem for many. The major drawback to kenaf paper is its cost--at two to four times the cost of ordinary office paper it is out of the question for routine daily copying and printing. Kenaf may be a good choice for occasional specialty printing.

PET CARPET (1992-1998)
PET carpet manufactured by Talisman Mills was installed in the Bureau of Procurement offices when our office building was constructed in 1992. Conventional nylon carpet was installed elsewhere in the structure. Building managers have been unhappy with the performance of PET carpet, due to the wear patterns. The carpet will be replaced in 1999.

Manufacturer intended to reduce waste by having consumers return the bottles for refilling, and claimed that the product works just the same or better than conventional "Wite-Out." In our first trial, state workers liked the correction fluid, but they didn’t like the way the brushes splayed out and became difficult to use.

Rayovac rechargeable alkaline batteries were added to the state contract bulletin in early 1995. Although the purchase prices of rechargeables are more than regular alkaline batteries, the life-cycle cost of rechargeables is much less when they work as well as claimed by the manufacturer. Rechargeable alkaline batteries were used by four different agencies in order to evaluate their use. Results were inconclusive. While some locations really liked the rechargeables, some did not at all, and it is not yet clear which institutional settings are most suited to this product. Relatively small (5%) but steady purchases continue through the state contract for batteries.

The Department of Natural Resources has used re-refined motor oil for several years in approximately eighteen vehicles at Kettle Moraine State Forest. The fleet manager has had oil samples tested regularly as part of an engine maintenance program, and test results support the belief that the oil is working great.

Many people who promote the purchase of re-refined motor oil believe that the American Petroleum Institute labeling program is enough to guarantee quality. With funding from EPA Region V, the State Bureau of Procurement examined this belief. Our audit revealed that while re-refined oil can meet API specifications, not all currently labeled brands do actually meet the standards. API is not a reliable guarantor of quality with regard to bulk oil, and there are overall weaknesses with the audit program. For a copy of the complete report, contact Susan Mooney, EPA Region V, at (312) 886-3585.



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