Give a green light to recycled items

Robert J. Sherry

More and more, state and local governments are applying environmentally conscious thinking in their requirements for technology buys.

Over the past several years, many jurisdictions'via mechanisms such as laws, executive orders, proclamations and regulations'have established policies setting preferences for certain recycled or remanufactured products. These policies can be expressed in various ways. For example, state laws or regulations may simply require agencies to use their best efforts to purchase recycled or remanufactured products.

Some states give preferential treatment, usually expressed as a percentage of the bid price, to bidders that specify the use of recycled or remanufactured products in their proposals. Other states require agencies to meet so-called buy-recycled minimum goals'expressed as a percentage of all purchases of commodities such as disks or computer paper'each year or by certain deadlines.

My informal survey suggests most jurisdictions have purchasing programs that give favorable treatment to recycled or remanufactured products. For example:

''Under Florida law, agencies can allow up to a 10 percent price preference to an otherwise responsive bidder that has certified its products or materials contain a minimum specified level of recycled content. The Legislature also directed state purchasing agencies to review procurement rules and specifications to determine which products or materials with recycled content to buy.

''Some states, including Missouri, North Carolina and Texas, have established contract terms for buying wholly or partially recycled, remanufactured or reconditioned products.

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''Recently Louisiana implemented buy-recycled programs in each executive agency. Key elements of the program are statewide preferences, a campaign to promote buying recycled products, and development of certification and monitoring procedures.

It looks as though the trend toward preferences for recycled or remanufactured products will accelerate. For office supplies such as paper, disks and toner cartridges, buy-recycled programs will eventually take root in every agency.

More importantly, the number of jurisdictions continuing to insist on specifications or contract clauses that require hardware and peripheral purchases to consist of exclusively new material will likely dwindle to an isolated few. These restrictions, of course, generally fly in the face of standard industry practice, create compliance and manufacturing problems for companies, and unnecessarily increase costs for government customers.

Reconditioned or remanufactured equipment and supplies almost invariably meet users' needs and should receive a green light from every public-sector purchaser.

Robert J. Sherry is a partner in the law firm of McKenna & Cuneo LLP. He heads the government contracts practice in the firm's San Francisco office, counseling information technology companies on federal, state and local issues.

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