Waste Prevention & Recycling        Printer Friendly

Purchasing for Waste Prevention

The primary objective of a waste prevention program is to reduce the amount of waste that has to be managed.  Waste prevention should be given the highest priority because it emphasizes elimination or reduction of waste at the point of generation.  Waste preventing products are durable, reusable, rechargeable and/or refillable.  They achieve the same performance as their more wasteful counterparts, while reducing waste quantities and costs. 

Reuse is another waste prevention option.  Buying reusable items (such as cloths or dishes) and rechargeable products (batteries, toner cartridges) reduces long-term purchasing costs and cuts down on product and packaging waste.  Refillable containers also reduce the generation of packaging waste by eliminating discarded containers and the packaging associated with the purchase of the new containers. Note: all of these conditions currently exist at Rutgers so these practices should continue and be documented as part of Rutgers’ overall green strategy.

The act of separating materials for recycling is not considered waste prevention because, although the separated materials will be used to make new products, waste was still generated.  However, as the Rutgers Community will learn, buying products manufactured from recycled materials is an important part of a green purchasing program.

As stated previously, equally important to the recycling process is the purchase of products manufactured with recycled content.  By purchasing recycled products, Rutgers helps to create long-term markets for the recyclable materials collected from Rutgers, where faculty, staff and students live (including on-campus housing) and the institutions that Rutgers faculty, staff and students patronize.  Rutgers also promotes new business and employment opportunities and will conserve resources for the future.  To encourage manufacturers to produce more recycled products, demand for these goods must be enhanced and sustained. 

One approach to preventing waste may be to change the way a job is accomplished and eliminate a product altogether.  Another may be to purchase a more environmentally sound product to perform the same task.  Identifying opportunities to eliminate waste is the first step.  For waste that cannot be eliminated, the Purchasing Department recommends strategies to reduce the quantity of waste.  For each purchase the University makes, purchasers should begin by asking a series of questions, including: 

Do we really need this product? 
Is there a way to achieve the same goal without creating a waste? 

Eliminating products requires faculty, staff and student cooperation and a willingness to step back and review how a product is used to determine if there is a way to change a process or to simply stop a wasteful practice.

While eliminating waste is the primary goal of Rutgers’ GP program, diverting materials that the University cannot eliminate or minimize is also a key criterion.  An effective recycling program will be instrumental in helping to meet Rutgers’ GP goals.  Target products and packaging that can be recycled within Rutgers’ current recycling program.  Enhancing the recyclability of products and packaging reduces the quantity of waste requiring disposal.  Whenever possible, purchase products and specify product packaging that is compatible with the University’s recycling goals.

Buying Products with Recycled Content

The most important step in recycling, the one where Rutgers can really make a difference, is the purchase of new, recycled content products.  Rutgers can “close the loop” by purchasing products manufactured from recycled or recovered material and by promoting the “buy recycled” message.

With increased market demand, today’s recycled products offer excellent quality.  Recycled products are often close to or equal in price to products made from virgin materials.  Manufacturing new products from recovered materials saves resources, energy and water, while reducing air pollution and disposal costs.  By further increasing the demand for products made from recycled materials, the University will help to keep these products’ price competitive.  Buying recycled products is critical and one of our most significant recommendations!

Rutgers’ GP policy will (and should) advocate the purchase of products with the highest percentage of “post-consumer” recycled content.  Post-consumer refers to items that have been used by the consumer, separated for recycling and then made into new materials and products.  While both pre- and post-consumer materials would otherwise be landfilled, post-consumer content is most important, because it creates a market for the items that we recycle at Rutgers and at home.

Manufacturers are continually fine tuning their equipment to accommodate recycled content feedstock and to expand the range of products manufactured with recycled content.  Times have changed in the recycling industry and the quality of these products is continuing to rise.  If the University is concerned about the performance of a recycled product, it is recommended that the University consider buying a small quantity of a product for a trial.  It is important to confirm that the product meets performance expectations before making a decision to substitute a recycled content product for a virgin product.

Determining the percentage of recycled content to specify in product procurement can be a challenge, but the information is available.  Consider the following steps as a guide: 

“Read the label or product description in a catalog carefully.  The wording on a label may state that the product contains 50% recycled content, 10% post-consumer.  The University will know that the product is manufactured from 50% virgin material and 50% recycled material, of which 10% is post-consumer recycled material.  The University should set recycled content standards high enough to stimulate demand for recovered materials, but not so high as to hamper product performance or availability.” 


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