Sustainable Acquisition

The U.S. Department of Energy gives preference to products containing recycled content along with other environmental attributes. The DOE Recycled Product Program is part of DOE's Sustainable Acquisition Program. The goal of DOE's Recycled Content Products Program is to help DOE sites recognize the value of recycled products and transition to them as quickly as possible, especially those designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

EPA designates which products are to be purchased with recycled content. Once EPA "designates an item, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Section 6002 requires that any procuring agency, when using appropriated Federal funds to procure that item, shall purchase it with the highest percentage of recovered materials practicable (40 CFR 247).

The RCRA Section 6002 requirement is that 100 percent of the purchases of the designated products shall meet or exceed the EPA guideline standards unless written justification is provided that a product is 1) not available competitively within a reasonable time frame, 2) does not meet appropriate performance standards, or 3) is only available at an unreasonable price. Within the U.S. Department of Energy, these justified exceptions are informally referred to as the CAP: cost, availability, performance.

Per Executive Order 13423, no justified exception is allowed for paper, which must contain at least 30 percent post-consumer fiber content.

The requirement to purchase the designated items with recycled content only applies when purchasing the items with the material specified. For instance if you purchase a clipboard made of pressed wood chips, that is environmentally preferable to purchasing an oil-based plastic one because pressed wood is a renewable resource and oil is a finite resource. Pressboard clipboards do not require recycled content because most of them have long been made with recycled content (no driver for that market needed). However, if you purchase a plastic clipboard, you need to purchase it with the specified amount of recycled plastic.

Each Federal agency and contractor is required to establish a purchasing program for recycled products. The program must have four components:

  • Preference - a policy and specifications embedded in the purchasing systems
  • Promotion - an initial awareness raising campaign, training, and information resources readily available to all staff
  • Verification - a determination that the specified product meets the requirements
  • Review and Reporting - an evaluation of the program annually to identify and overcome obstacles to purchasing recycled products and to report on the purchases

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency inspects Federal agencies for compliance in purchasing recycled content products as part of their RCRA audits (Guidance on Conducting Inspections of Federal Facilities for Compliance with Section 6002 of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act).

The benefits of purchasing products are:

Energy Security

  • Conserve energy - less energy is required when manufacturing with recycled content


  • Conserve water - less water is required when manufacturing with recycled content
  • Reduce green house gases - fewer pollutants are emitted when feedstock is semi-processed


  • Conserve resources
  • Reduce disposal costs
  • Stimulate economic development in recycled product market

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Last Updated: October 08, 2014