Solid Waste

Federal Program to Buy Products With Recovered Materials Proceeds Slowly Gao ID: RCED-93-58 May 17, 1993

By the year 2000, everyone in the United States is projected to discard more than four pounds of solid waste a day. Most of this waste ends up in landfills that are reaching capacity, and setting up new sites has become increasingly difficult. Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976, Congress required federal agencies to buy items composed of materials recovered from discarded waste. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was to designate which items agencies were to buy, the Commerce Department was to develop markets for recovered materials, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) was to implement the act's procurement policy. GAO found that EPA has been slow to develop procurement guidelines and that Commerce has done little to stimulate market development. In the absence of effective program leadership, some federal agencies have claimed to have been unaware of the program or assigned it a low priority. In response to heightened congressional interest, some agencies have begun complying with program requirements but have identified barriers that could hinder program effectiveness. Although OMB has submitted reports to Congress, it has only recently requested the information needed to measure agency progress. Without a system to provide needed data, complete information needed to assess the program may not be available in the future.

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.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

Director: Team: Phone:

The Justia Government Accountability Office site republishes public reports retrieved from the U.S. GAO These reports should not be considered official, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Justia.