Steps in Developing a Successful Buy Recycled-Content Product Program

There are many elements that go into a successful buy recycled-content product (RCP) program within any agency. Despite its size, the way it is organized, the extent to which purchasing is centralized, the access to computers, and the commitment made to these mandates, each agency can achieve its mandated goal. The following areas have been identified as key elements of a successful State Agency Buy Recycled Campaign (SABRC). Select a topic below to go directly to that element or simply scroll down:

Commitment and Involvement From the Top

Upper management support and involvement is critical for an agency to increase its RCP purchases. There can be many obstacles that can impede the procurement of RCPs, such as the lack of awareness of the availability of these products by business procurement officers to end-user resistance. However, management directives to purchase recycled rather than non-recycled products are often enough to break through most of the barriers and provide the opportunity for RCPs to prove themselves. Upper management must instill the commitment to attain the mandated goals, ensure there are adequate resources, provide the necessary communication throughout the agency, and facilitate the identification, purchase, tracking, and reporting of RCPs.

Additionally, because of the need for multiple offices to be involved in identifying, purchasing, tracking, and reporting RCP purchases for an agency, it is often necessary to have a high level manager oversee these activities. A manager must be responsible for communicating the program’s objectives to the other managers and for coordinating the efforts of the team if staff from several offices makes purchases. If the program is to be successful, the managers overseeing and coordinating the program must be supportive of buying recycled. A successful SABRC program typically has a deputy director assigned to ensure the agency is in compliance with the program mandates.

Dedicated Personnel

Those employees responsible to ensure compliance of SABRC mandates must be persistent in purchasing RCPs rather than non-RCPs whenever possible. Without personal dedication by the agency coordinator, increased recycled product procurement will be very difficult. Procurement staff, those ordering supplies, as well as staff from finance, contracts, budgets, accounting, and the products-users in maintenance, the mail room, business services, and grounds keeping, all may have a role to play and should be involved in buying recycled. To make the program work, these staff all needs to be educated about and motivated to buy recycled and given input to making the program work.

Internal Communication/Coordination

For most State agencies, attaining SABRC mandates will require a coordinated effort among multiple branches or offices within an agency. All end-users of products (the copy room, all staff, vehicle pool, etc.) should know about the State’s commitment to buying recycled, so that they specify recycled content when they request products. Those procuring the products should be aware, not just of the SABRC requirements, but also about what recycled-content products are available so that they can advise end-users accordingly. The person responsible for producing the SABRC annual report must be in communication with those buying the products so that certification forms are being collected and accurate purchase records are being kept. The flow of information within departments among buyers and administrative staff and from top management through staff-level contacts is needed to keep everyone apprised of buying recycled procurement opportunities and activities.

External Information Sharing and Education

Communication is also needed among agencies to share success stories and difficulties. Buyers need to communicate with suppliers, and an ongoing concerted effort must be made by the State as a whole to inform product manufacturers of the preferences for recycled products.

Some people had bad experiences with recycled products in the past, claim the recycled products are too expensive, or have heard of such experiences from others. Recycled products have improved a great deal in recent years and costs have come down. With considerable research and development going into this new generation of recycled products, many of them compare very favorably to, and some are simply better than, non-recycled products with respect to price, quality, and availability. These advancements need to be discussed among buyers and sellers.

Procurement Tracking System

A department-wide tracking and reporting system is a must for any agency to accurately identify, track, and report their purchases. An agency must have the ability to identify all reportable purchases, both recycled and non-recycled, that must be included in the annual report. Methods to identify reportable purchases must be established and used by all offices, divisions, facilities, and districts to capture the relevant data. Whether the system is simply an organization of purchase orders, a modification of the CalStars, an Excel spreadsheet, or a software program specially designed to facilitate reporting, a department-wide system must be in place for an agency to accurately track and report its reportable purchases. Visit CIWMB’s Reporting on Buying Recycled-Content Products web page for more information.

Consistent Use of Recycled-Content Certification Form

Every product, material, good, or supply must have its recycled content certified by the supplier. Even if the product has no recycled content, the supplier must indicate that on the certification. This certification, provided by the product supplier, begins the flow of information that eventually gets reported at the end of the year. Without the consistent use of the certification form, or some other institutionalized procedure to collect the recycled content information, agencies will continue to struggle to gather the procurement data needed for the SABRC report. Also visit CIWMB’s Certifying Recycled Content web page.

Evaluation and Improvement

The final element to a successful SABRC program is the ability to evaluate past purchases with respect to product performance, price, delivery, and overall satisfaction, as should be done with all purchases regardless of material content. Each member of the team (buyers, users, management, and those tracking the purchases) must fully analyze past purchases from each of their particular areas of expertise so they will lead to more successful future purchases. This will result in establishing “best RCP purchasing practices,” prevent some mistakes from being repeated, and should result in feedback for the RCP suppliers on how to improve their products and services.

Analysis of purchases necessitates the development of some type of product performance tracking mechanism. Staff must have a system to gather the information, organize it in a meaningful manner, and be able to manipulate the data by a variety of criteria.

How Are We Doing? Find out how State agencies are doing in meeting their RCP requirements.

For more information contact: State Agency Buy Recycled Campaign,