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Only Recycled Copy Paper Will Do for DoD

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 22, 1997 – Recycled paper. It's not quite as white, but it works just as well, and DoD officials say most people can barely tell the difference.

DoD is taking the lead as the first federal agency to buy only recycled paper for copiers and printers, Pentagon officials announced here April 17.

DoD uses about 65 percent of all the copy paper the General Services Administration buys for the federal government, officials said. Until now, only 18 percent of the paper bought by the federal government was recycled paper.

"Making the switch to copier paper with recycled content is an important part of meeting our environmental commitments because we use more paper than any other agency," said Defense Secretary William S. Cohen. "With this one act, we are able to realize substantial environmental savings."

DoD buys about 2.1 million 5,000-sheet boxes each year, said Sherri Goodman, deputy under secretary of defense for environmental security. "Each week, the Pentagon buys 1,400 boxes of paper," she said. "If you laid them end to end, the paper we use in one week could stretch from Washington to Miami."

Using recycled paper saves trees, energy and money, Goodman said. DoD officials estimate the Pentagon's switch will save about 150,000 trees, 35 million kilowatt hours of electricity and 60 million gallons of water each year.

DoD will use recycled paper as long as it costs less than virgin paper, Goodman said. At present, recycled paper costs about five cents less per box, so based on 1996 sales, DoD will see a net savings of about $105,000 a year.

Fran McPoland, the administration's federal environmental executive, hailed DoD's new policy as a major step toward compliance with President Clinton's 1993 executive order on federal acquisiton, recycling and waste prevention.

Executive Order 12873 stresses "the importance of using the government's purchasing power to stimulate markets for recovered products and reduce the need to dispose of waste materials," McPoland said. It requires federal agencies to establish procurement programs for designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as items containing recovered material.

"Printing and writing paper is one of the biggest targets on the list," McPoland said. The federal government purchases 20 billion sheets of paper a year from GSA and the Government Printing Office, she said. That's equal to 10 million sheets for every hour of a 40-hour work week.

"Although we have made great strides in buying recycled products over the last four years, our performance in purchasing recycled copier paper has been more than disappointing," she said. "Governmentwide, the compliance levels for 1996 were close to about 17 percent. This is due, in part, to a system that allows government officials to continue procuring the same items purchased for years and years without change."

By switching to recycled copy paper, DoD has set an important precedent and serves as an example for the rest of the government, McPoland said.

"DoD's new mandate will help provide a much-needed price stabilizing effect on recycled paper prices by stimulating recycled paper production capacity by more than 2 million boxes every year," she said. "The impact of this policy is so tremendous, we have already started conversations with other federal agencies interested in following DoD's footsteps."

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