Department of Administration

Date: February 21, 1997
To: Jim Johnson, Administrator
Division of State Agency Services
From: Jan Abrahamsen, Director
State Bureau of Procurement
Subject: Procurement Recycling Report


1989 Wisconsin Act 335, the Recycling Law, includes requirements for reporting by the Bureau of Procurement. We are to report on the purchase of recycled products, and specifically, we are directed to report on the purchase of recycled paper by state agencies. In addition, we are to address the revision of specifications to foster recyclability, to promote waste reduction, and to favor multiple-use, durable products over disposables.

Act 335 identified immediate requirements for purchasing recycled paper, and accordingly, DOA placed a major emphasis in this area. DOA has maintained its leadership role by ensuring that state agencies have ready access to recycled paper in all areas of paper procurement, from office supplies to contract printing. State purchasing agents routinely buy recycled paper through all of the usual outlets for state paper products. This includes UW State Consolidated Stores, DOA Central Printing, UW-Madison Printing Services, Waupun Central Warehouse, Badger State Industries, and other state agencies which provide copying or printing services.

Recycled paper procurement by the majority of state agencies exceeds the current legislated 40% minimum requirement, and the overall average recycled content was 42%. The changing paper market has made it more difficult, more costly, and more time consuming for state agencies to purchase paper with the high recycled content necessary to comply with the law. The paper market situation is described in Section C of this report.

In 1996, state agencies purchased significant quantities of glass beads used in traffic paint, retread tires, recharged laser toner cartridges, recycled plastic containers, and various plastic lumber products. Experimental purchases of re-refined oil, rechargeable batteries, recycled plastic signs, and recycled construction materials are expected to lead to future additional purchases.

The Recycled Product Clearinghouse has grown larger with more company listings and additional product entries. Maintaining the clearinghouse involves compiling, refining, and updating information on sources of recycled products. Clearinghouse work in 1997 will be devoted to making information available on the DOA website.

Approximately one fourth of the listed companies have provided product literature for a print-on-demand system. Product information that has been scanned and stored electronically is printed as requested by Clearinghouse clients. State agencies and local governments may access clearinghouse information directly through our electronic bulletin board or may place phone requests with the Bureau. Clearinghouse services have been publicized in the past few years by the printing and distribution (in cooperation with University of Wisconsin-Extension) of paper versions of the Clearinghouse. The bulletin board system will certainly fade away as the web site gets up and running. Similarly, the distribution of printed copies of company literature may soon be replaced by Internet links to company home pages.

In general, Act 335 requires the revision of specifications for the purchase of recycled products and for the purchase of products consistent with waste reduction goals. As reported each year, this effort will take time and patience. The practical reality is that the procurement activities required by Act 335 are costly in terms of actual product expenditures and agency staff time. Recycled products generally cost more than non-recycled counterparts and rarely serve as equal substitutes. Agency budget cutbacks may force agencies to choose less expensive non-recycled products.

Practical problems with evaluating alternative products are further complicated by the levels of resources and authority purchasing agents have within their organizations. They are generally viewed as service-providers whose role is to buy products identified by end-users. If the desired products require technical specifications, purchasing agents usually must rely on specifications prepared by others, such as agency program staff or engineering departments. Purchasing agents may not have the authority or the expertise to challenge specifications.

This report will start with a methodical discussion of Wisconsin purchasing, and includes a candid appraisal of DOA's abilities and limitations with regard to accomplishing the purchasing goals of Act 335. Part B discusses recycled product procurement in terms of the priority commodity categories in Act 335, and argues that the first priority for recycling market development in this state should be bolstering businesses' ability to offer cost-competitive products. Part C focuses on paper procurement and suggests an alternative way to report paper purchases. Those anxious to see how state agencies did in 1996 may wish to look ahead to the Table 1 spreadsheet toward the end of this report. Part D covers progress in recycling-related procurement, such as waste reduction through product reuse. The report concludes with our program plans for 1997.



Procurement Recycling Report - Calendar Year 1996

State Agency Paper Purchasing Report