Federal Procurement:

Better Guidance and Monitoring Needed to Assess Purchases of Environmentally Friendly Products

GAO-01-430: Published: Jun 22, 2001. Publicly Released: Jul 24, 2001.

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The federal government buys about $200 billion worth of goods and services each year. Through its purchasing decisions, the federal government can signal its commitment to preventing pollution, reducing solid waste, increasing recycling, and stimulating markets for environmentally friendly products. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA) directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to identify products made with recycled waste materials or solid waste by-products and to develop guidance for purchasing these products. The act also requires procuring agencies to establish programs for purchasing them. This report examines efforts by federal agencies to (1) implementation of RCRA requirements for procuring products with recycled content and (2) the purchase of environmentally preferable and bio-based products. EPA accelerated its efforts in the 1990s to identify recycled-content products, but the status of agencies' efforts to implement the RCRA purchasing requirements for these products is uncertain. The four major procuring agencies report that, for many reasons, their procurement practices have not changed to increase their purchases of environmentally preferable and bio-based products. One reason for the lack of change is that EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have been slow to develop and implement the programs.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Agencies implemented the recommendation. EPA, in coordination with the Federal Environmental Executive, has developed a searchable data base easily accessible on its web site to assist federal agencies in purchasing recycled-content products.

    Recommendation: To help agencies purchase recycled content products the Federal Environmental Executive, in conjunction with the Administrator of EPA, should work with officials at the major procuring agencies to develop a process to provide the procuring agencies with current information on the availability of the designated recycled-content products. In addition, these officials should determine how these products can be more effectively promoted.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: The Office of Federal Procurement Policy has not yet developed more specific guidance for procuring agencies to carry out the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA) requirement to review and monitor the effectiveness of affirmative procurement programs.

    Recommendation: To help agencies implement the RCRA requirement to annually monitor an review the effectiveness of affirmative procurement programs, the Director, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), should instruct the Director of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy to provide procuring agencies with more specific guidance on fulfilling the RCRA review and monitoring requirements and, in conjunction with the Federal Environmental Executive, use the results of the agencies' efforts in their reports to the Congress and the President.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: The White House Task Force recommendation revising the Federal Procurement Data System or its replacement has not yet been implemented.

    Recommendation: If the White House Task Force recommendation revising the Federal Procurement Data System or its replacement is implemented, then the Director, OMB, should instruct the Director of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy to provide guidance to the federal procuring agencies on using the information added to the system to periodically review contractors' compliance with the RCRA requirements for purchasing recycled-content products.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA indicated that OMB replaced the common rule in December 2013 with the Uniform Grants Guidance, 2 CFR Part 200 which at 2 CFR.300 directs federal grantor agencies to ensure compliance with U.S. statutory and public policy requirements, including those protecting the environment which would include RCRA procurement requirements. In addition, the UGG at 2 CFR 200.322 specifically incorporates RCRA procurement requirements and therefore we are closing this recommendation as implemented.

    Recommendation: To ensure that grantees purchase recycled content products as required by the Director of the Office of Federal Financial Management, OMB, in coordination with federal agencies, should amend the common rule so that it incorporates the RCRA requirements as recommended in the Federal Environmental Executive's Report to the President entitled Greening the Government.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

 

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