Solid Waste:

Federal Program to Buy Products With Recovered Materials Proceeds Slowly

RCED-93-58: Published: May 17, 1993. Publicly Released: Jun 16, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the implementation of the federal program that fosters the purchase of products containing recovered materials, focusing on the: (1) Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) efforts to develop guidelines for the purchase of such products; (2) Department of Commerce's efforts to develop markets for these products; and (3) extent of implementation of the program's requirements.

GAO found that: (1) although EPA has begun to develop a long-term strategy and increased the resources for procurement guideline development, EPA has issued few guidelines because of problems in obtaining needed interagency information, a burdensome formal review and approval process, and staff and contractor changes; (2) there is an oversupply of recycled material and Commerce has not maintained a program that identifies existing or potential markets and has given recycling a low priority; (3) federal procurement agencies have not given a high priority to recovered material program development because of limited program awareness and ineffective program leadership; and (4) the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) could not provide Congress with sufficient information to assess program effectiveness because of a lack of information on federal purchases of products containing recovered material and because measurable goals have not been established to assess the program's progress.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Specific independent legislative action on this recommendation is not anticipated prior to RCRA reauthorization, which will not be acted upon during this legislative session. The responsible subcommittee's main focus is currently on Superfund reauthorization.

    Matter: Congress should clarify the meaning of unreasonable price by either: (1) establishing parameters for an unreasonable price and any conditions that might alter those parameters; or (2) delegating the authority for establishing such parameters and conditions.

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Specific independent legislative action on this recommendation is not anticipated prior to RCRA reauthorization, which will not be acted upon during this legislative session. The responsible subcommittee's main focus is currently on Superfund reauthorization.

    Matter: Congress should explicitly state its views on establishing a price preference under RCRA section 6002.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Executive Order 12873 sets forth a streamlined process to issue annual Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPGs). EPA has no plans to issue any further strategy beyond the Executive Order. However it does believe that the streamlining process has reduced the issuance time on procurement guidance issued recently.

    Recommendation: So that EPA can better assist agencies to increase their procurement of products containing recovered materials, the Administrator, EPA, should make final the long-term strategy for developing procurement guidelines, including provisions for measuring the impact of EPA's initiative to streamline guideline development on the amount of time needed to develop and issue procurement guidelines.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The process EPA used to develop its April 20, 1994, proposed CPG and RMAN utilized publicly-available information and other data not requiring an Information Collection Request from OMB. Should future CPG updates require an Information Collection Request, it will request one at the appropriate time.

    Recommendation: So that EPA can better assist agencies to increase their procurement of products containing recovered materials, the Administrator, EPA, should make final the long-term strategy for developing procurement guidelines, including provisions for clarifying whether the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) approval is necessary for information requests made of nonfederal parties by EPA or EPA contractors and for building in the time for this approval if it is necessary.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA included a representative from the Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology on its workgroup to develop the April 20, 1994, CPG, and it intends to continue to have a Commerce representative on the workgroup for future CPG annual updates.

    Recommendation: So that EPA can better assist agencies to increase their procurement of products containing recovered materials, the Administrator, EPA, should make final the long-term strategy for developing procurement guidelines, including agreements and procedures for fully exploring with Commerce the information Commerce could provide, including more complete information about the availability of recovered materials and their uses.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA's workgroup to develop and select guidelines includes 30 members that represent 12 major federal agencies including the General Services Administration, OMB's Office of Federal Procurement Policy, and OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Analyis. In forming the workgroup, EPA contacted the former Federal Recycling Coordinator and Chair of the former Council on Recycling and Procurement Policy to obtain recommendations for participants on the workgroup.

    Recommendation: So that EPA can better assist agencies to increase their procurement of products containing recovered materials, the Administrator, EPA, should make final the long-term strategy for developing procurement guidelines, including agreements and procedures for fully exploring ways to obtain information about products purchased by federal procuring agencies that contain recovered materials with the General Services Administration, OFPP, and the Council on Federal Recycling and Procurement Policy.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In developing its April 20, 1994, CPG, EPA contacted several states and consulted the National Association of State Purchasing Officials' Database of Recycled Commodities for information on state purchases of recycled products. EPA intends to continue this practice when annually updating the CPG.

    Recommendation: So that EPA can better assist agencies to increase their procurement of products containing recovered materials, the Administrator, EPA, should make final the long-term strategy for developing procurement guidelines, including requirements to coordinate and consult with states so that their views and expertise can be incorporated into the guideline development process.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA will work with the members of the CPG workgroup, who represent 12 major federal agencies as well as the Federal Environmental Executive, to ensure agency input into the guideline development process.

    Recommendation: So that EPA can better assist agencies to increase their procurement of products containing recovered materials, the Administrator, EPA, should make final the long-term strategy for developing procurement guidelines, including requirements to cooperate with other federal agencies through the Council on Federal Recycling and Procurement Policy to help keep these agencies informed of new guideline efforts so that appropriate individuals from those agencies can work effectively with EPA on guideline development.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Executive Order 12873 sets forth an annual schedule to update CPGs. EPA will provide information on its guideline activities to Congress and all other interested parties.

    Recommendation: So that EPA can better assist agencies to increase their procurement of products containing recovered materials, the Administrator, EPA, should make final the long-term strategy for developing procurement guidelines, including requirements to keep interested parties, particularly Congress, informed of plans for setting priorities and systematically selecting and developing future procurement guidelines as well as of the resource needs these efforts require.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Executive Order 12873, in which EPA participated in the development, addresses experimental or developmental products. Section 507 of the order requires the Department of Commerce's National Institute for Standards and Technology to establish a program for testing the performance of recycled products. Such a program could test experimental or developmental products. EPA could then use test results in future CPG updates. EPA does not believe that designating experimental or developmental products as a CPG is an efficient use of resources because agencies need not procure them if they are unable to secure a satisfactory level of competition or if products are not reasonably available.

    Recommendation: To maximize EPA potential impact in finding ways to further reduce the amount of solid waste requiring disposal, the Administrator, EPA, should also include a requirement to consider ways to identify experimental or developmental products that could incorporate recovered materials, to publicize the extent to which these products are now becoming available, and to look for ways to foster their development.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In February 1994, Commerce approved a Deputy Assistant Secretary position for Environmental Technologies Experts within the International Trade Administration whose duties will include, among other things, helping industries develop domestic environmental technical expertise to improve international competitiveness. Although Commerce's International Trade Administration planned to establish a recovered materials program by 1995, no funds were budgeted. These two actions resulted in Commerce closing out this recommendation during the second quarter of 1994.

    Recommendation: In order to further the goals of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) subtitle E, the Secretary of Commerce should establish a program to support the recycling industry and stimulate the demand for recovered materials. The program should incorporate a recovered materials focus into ongoing work Commerce conducts to help industries develop domestically and compete internationally. The program should also draw upon the technical expertise of Commerce to strengthen the demand for recovered materials and achieve quality improvements in products containing recovered materials. In establishing the program, Commerce will need to assess its current activities within the various departmental units that could help stimulate the markets for recovered materials and to determine the resources needed to gather these activities into an identifiable recovered materials program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OMB has completed action on part of this recommendation and intends no action on the remaining portion. In October 1994, OFPP helped to revise OMB Circular A-102, requiring that state and local governments that use appropriated funds comply with section 6002 of RCRA. This section requires that procurement programs give preferences to products containing recovered materials. OMB believes that the additional recommendation that a reporting mechanism be established to allow the federal government to assess state and local implementation of RCRA requirements is unduly burdensome on the already limited resources of local, state, and federal governments and is consistent with the principles of federalism.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, working through OFPP, should implement as soon as possible the proposed change to OMB Circular A-102 to require state and local governments to comply with section 6002 requirements. In addition, the Director should amend the reporting requirements of Circular A-102 or devise another mechanism that will allow the federal government to assess state and local governments' implementation of RCRA requirements.

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

  11. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OMB has completed action on this recommendation. OFPP has worked with the White House Office on Environmental Policy in developing Executive Order 12873 on Federal Acquisition, Recycling, and Waste Prevention, which was signed in October 1993 and amended in March 1996. The order directs agencies to track and report purchases of items that are made with recovered materials listed in the EPA procurement guide. To accomplish this, agencies have designated Agency Environmental Executives that are responsible for implementing agency Affirmative Procurement Programs. Agencies are required to establish goals for solid waste prevention and recycling, and for increasing the procurement of products containing recovered materials and other environmentally preferable products, and to incorporate these goals into the agencies' Affirmative Procurement Programs.

    Recommendation: In order to assess the overall effectiveness of the federal procurement program, the Director, OMB, should direct the Administrator, OFPP, to have the Council on Federal Recycling and Procurement Policy to either: (1) establish governmentwide goals for the federal procurement program; or (2) develop broad parameters for individual agencies to use in establishing their own procurement program goals and then require each agency to establish such goals consistent with the overall parameters established by the Council.

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

  12. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OMB has taken action on this recommendation. An interim rule amending the Federal Acquisition Regulation to incorporate policies for the acquisition of environmentally preferable and energy-efficient products and services was published in the Federal Register on May 31, 1995. OMB reviewed numerous comments on the proposed rule. As of late August 1996, the final rule was under review and publication of the final rule is expected shortly.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, working through OFPP, should seek timely completion and incorporation of RCRA section 6002 requirements into the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

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

  13. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On October 20, 1993, Executive Order 12873 was signed which required EPA to propose, within 180 days, a Comprehensive Procurement Guideline (CPG) and draft a Recovered Materials Advisory Notice (RMAN). The order further requires EPA to annually update the CPG to include additional items and to periodically update the RMANs to reflect changed market conditions. EPA worked closely with White House staff when the Executive Order was drafted, and the strategy of issuing CPGs and RMANs as described in the order serves as EPA's strategy for developing measurable goals, milestones, and a systematic approach as GAO recommended.

    Recommendation: So that EPA can better assist agencies to increase their procurement of products containing recovered materials, the Administrator, EPA, should make final the long-term strategy for developing procurement guidelines, including funding and staff needs, measurable goals, milestones, and a systematic approach to selecting items for procurement guidelines and to balancing resource allocations between guideline development and implementation.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

 

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