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Recycling Homepage
Recycling Procurement Program

1999 Success

Origination Date: April 24, 1998
Revision Date: October 27, 1999

Since 1990, Wisconsin has been a leader in the development of recycled product specifications, and has led several regional state cooperative procurements by working with the Council of Great Lakes Governors.

Recycled Paper Volume

Since Wisconsin law has additional, specific requirements for purchasing recycled paper, the Department of Administration has coordinated an aggressive shift by all state agencies to the predominant use of recycled paper. By administrative procedure, all Wisconsin state agencies have to buy recycled paper, except in those cases where recycled paper is not available or cannot meet performance requirements. Of the 20 million dollars spent annually on paper and printing, 98% is currently recycled. Of the 30 major statewide contracts for paper and printing, 27 have been revised to require the exclusive use of recycled paper. The other three contracts are used mainly for recycled paper, but permit virgin paper purchases if the recycled alternatives cannot be found. Although recycled papers are usually still higher in price than virgin paper, it is clear that high-quality recycled paper is readily available for all ordinary printing, copying, and office needs.

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Exceptions to the Recycled Paper Rule

Agencies that encounter situations where they cannot buy recycled paper must document the exceptions and maintain an exception file for future audits. Based on the exception reports, received by the Department of Administration in the past, there are a limited number of specialized applications, such as carbonless paper or colored label stock, where recycled paper is not a reasonable option in today’s paper market. These legitimate exceptions are estimated to be about 2% of the total purchases.

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Non-Paper Recycled Products

In addition to paper, state agencies buy recycled refuse containers, recharged toner cartridges, retread tires, re-refined motor oil, rechargeable alkaline batteries, recycled plastic lumber picnic tables and park benches, recycled plastic traffic cones, and recycled office supplies. These commodities may or may not be on current statewide contracts, but Wisconsin purchasing has enough flexibility such that any motivated state agency can buy a wide variety of recycled products. In general, few products meet the test of being "technically and economically" feasible. The Department of Administration has pushed continuously for better testing methods and standards, and has argued consistently that vendors must price their products competitively. Wisconsin has considered the potential of every type of recycled product for state procurement. Even in those cases where the purchase was not pursued, we have communicated our concerns to vendors and industry in the hopes of improving price, performance, competition, or availability. We believe that even a "no, not today" is a success story for the long term, if a thoughtful decision helps identify market problems to be solved in the future.



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