The National Recycling Coalition Recommendations

The National Recycling Coalition lists several steps that purchasing departments of organizations can use in their waste-reduction strategies:

1. Reduce product use. Adopt the practice of printing on both sides of office paper.

2. Rent or lease products or equipment. This includes leasing, rather than purchasing, equipment such as photocopiers, which can become obsolete, leaving the organization with old, unnecessary, and sometimes hazardous equipment to discard.

3. Purchase remanufactured or rebuilt products, or products that can be refurbished.

4. Purchase more durable products. Higher-quality products typically have a longer life cycle.

5. Purchase products that use nonhazardous materials. Nonhazardous materials are safer for individuals and landfills.

6. Purchase returnable, reusable, or refillable products. For instance, transport containers can be reused.

7. Purchase products in bulk.

8. Purchase products that reuse packaging or use less packaging.


In natural ecosystems, what is waste for one species is food for another. The concept of zero emissions, first elucidated in the early 1990s by Gunter Pauli, applies this principle to business endeavors and is being tested in Burlington, Vermont. At a 3,200 square meter eco-industrial complex enclosing a number of greenhouses. Waste heat from an existing power plant, fueled by discarded Christmas trees, will warm the greenhouses and fire up the brew kettle for a micro-brewery. Pilot tests have shown that "wastes" from the brewing process can be efficiently transformed into nutritious growing medium for marketable mushrooms, salad greens and fish. What remains can be sold as cattle feed and soil amendment.

waste-to-energy to convert solid waste into a usable form of energy landfills sanitary landfills are disposal sites for nonhaz-ardous solid wastes spread in layers, compacted to the smallest practical volume, and covered by material applied at the end of each operating day; secure chemical landfills are disposal sites for hazardous waste, selected and designed to minimize the chance of release of hazardous substances into the environment

9. Share and reuse resources within the organization. Companies can implement an internal computer equipment and office supply exchange before purchasing new products.

The EPA reports that 232 million pounds of waste were generated in 2000. The amount of waste produced per person has grown over the last thirty-five years, from 2.7 to 4.6 pounds per day. In 1999, waste reduction saved over fifty million tons of municipal solid waste from being dumped into landfills. see also Abatement; Composting; Green; Lifestyle; Recycling; Reuse; Technology, Pollution Prevention.


National Recycling Coalition. (1999). Purchasing Strategies to Prevent Waste and Save Money. Alexandria, VA: Author.

Other Resources

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "WasteWise: Preserving Resources, Preventing Waste." Available from

Terra Lenihan

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