Federal Environmental Executive Tackles Tough Issues

Last June, President Clinton designated Fran McPoland to serve as the Federal Environmental Executive. Since her appointment, Ms. McPoland has focused on helping Federal agencies work through some difficult recycling and affirmative procurement issues. In recent months, her office sponsored two workshops, one dealing with the use of groundwood photocopier paper and the other dealing with re-refined lubricating oil.

Groundwood Paper

The first workshop, held in mid-October, dealt with the impact of using groundwood copier paper. Two panels of experts representing the paper industry and the Federal government discussed the advantages and disadvantages of using groundwood copier paper.

Traditionally, recycled office paper has been produced from a combination of virgin fiber blended with paper collected from office paper recycling programs. Recently, International Paper introduced a new copier paper made entirely from old newspapers and magazines. The new product, marketed under the trade names Unity DP and Incentive 100 DP, is 100 percent recycled, with 50 percent postconsumer content. The postconsumer content is derived from newspapers collected from curbside recycling programs. The remaining recycled content comes from overruns of newspapers and magazines that never reached the consumer.

Most newspapers and magazines are made from groundwood paper. "Groundwood" refers to the original pulping process where wood is mechanically ground to a pulp. Groundwood paper is typically used for short-term products, such as newspapers, magazines, and catalogs. Non-groundwood paper, on the other hand, is produced using a more expensive chemical process that yields longer, stronger fibers.

There are several advantages to using groundwood copier paper. First, the postconsumer content far exceeds the Federal government's 1998 requirement of 30 percent postconsumer content. Second, the paper performs well in copiers, printers, and fax machines. Third, the paper is produced without additional chlorine bleaching. And finally (and most important to procurement), the paper has been selling for somewhat less than other recycled and non-recycled copier paper products.

Despite these advantages, there are drawbacks to using groundwood copier paper. First, the paper may be more difficult to recycle due to its high groundwood content. Groundwood paper is a low-grade paper that is considered a contaminant in high-grade office paper recycling programs. Depending on local market conditions, a separate collection system for groundwood paper may be required. Or, it may have to be collected with newspaper, rather than mixed with high-grade office paper. This may require modifying existing collection systems and re-educating employees. Second, groundwood paper may be more difficult to recycle since it is harder to de-ink than high-grade office paper. Finally, it is less valuable than high-grade office paper. When collected with high-grade paper, groundwood paper devalues the resultant mixed paper waste stream. In some cases, facilities may have to pay to have the paper collected.

There are benefits to using groundwood paper. However, facilities should evaluate the impact the paper will have on recycling programs before making the switch to groundwood paper.

Re-Refined Lubricating Oil

Requirements for Federal agencies to purchase re-refined lubricating oils have been in effect since 1988, yet less than one percent of the lubricating oil purchased by the Federal government in 1993 was re-refined oil. This is due in part to the General Services Administration's (GSA) position against using re-refined oil on the basis that it may void automobile manufacturers' engine warranties. Several DOE facilities have reported difficulty in purchasing re-refined oils as a result of the GSA Fleet Management Division's policy.

Last December, the Federal Environmental Executive brought together a panel of industry experts to dispel the myths of using re-refined oil. Representatives from Evergreen Holdings and Safety-Kleen Corporation, the only two U.S. manufacturers of re-refined oil base stock, discussed their programs for collecting and manufacturing their products.

Chuck Krambuhl, from the American Petroleum Institute (API), discussed the API certification program for gasoline engine motor oils. API's certification program was developed in conjunction with the American Automobile Manufacturers' Association, whose members include Chrysler Corporation, Ford, and General Motors (GM). API's certification program identifies virgin or re-refined motor oils meeting minimum standards established by automobile manufacturers to maintain vehicle performance. Products meeting API certification standards are identified with the API "starburst" symbol on the front of the container.

The API starburst enables the consumer to easily identify products that have passed a comprehensive series of performance tests and product quality audits. These tests measure everything from engine wear to the ability of the oil to prevent deposits and corrosion in the engine. Additional tests evaluate the oil's performance under a range of extreme temperatures. Both Evergreen and Safety-Kleen produce API certified oils.

Jim Steiger of the American Automobile Manufacturers' Association (AAMA) spoke on behalf of AAMA's members: GM, Ford, and Chrysler. GM and Chrysler recently revised their positions on the use of re-refined engine oils. Their current position is that engine oils meeting the latest International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee (ILSAC) Minimum Performance Standard (currently ILSAC GF-1) may be used in their vehicles. Engine oils meeting these requirements can be made with either virgin or re-refined base oils. API certified oils meet ILSAC GF-1 standards. Ford's position is similar to that of GM and Chrysler; however, in addition to being API certified, the oil must meet Ford Specification ESE-M2C153-E.

The U.S. Postal Service has been using re-refined oil for several years. In 1994, the Postal Service used 500,000 gallons of re-refined oil in over 72,000 vehicles nationwide. Many Postal Service vehicles have logged over 200,000 miles using re-refined oil with no reported problems.

Ron McHugh, DOE Pollution Prevention Special Assistant, raised the issue of a closed-loop re-refined oil contract that the Hanford site is in the process of awarding. Under the terms of the contract, the vendor will collect and recycle the site's used oil and provide re-refined lubricating oil for use in the site's vehicles. Hanford has a fleet of approximately 4,000 vehicles, of which 1,400 are leased from GSA. Under GSA's current policy, the site will have to award a separate contract for virgin oil to be used in GSA's vehicles. Representatives from GSA's Fleet Management Division stated they will be reassessing their position on the use of re-refined oils based on the information presented at the meeting.

In addition to these two workshops, Ms. McPoland has held two meetings with Agency Environmental Executives to further implementation of Executive Order 12873. Her goal is for the Federal government to set the example for the purchase of recycled products. "Once government sets the standards, a lot of industries will come to accept recycled-content products," stated McPoland. Ms. McPoland worked for Rep. Esteban Torres (D-California) for six years before she was appointed Federal Environmental Executive. She is an expert in developing market incentives for recycling legislation on tires, used oil, lead-acid batteries, and paper. Ms. McPoland can be reached on the Internet at McPoland.Fran@EPAMAIL.epa.gov.

Back To Affirmative Procurement