Pushing the green envelope at the U.S. Postal Service
In 1992, Tom Kemper, CEO of Dallas-based Dolphin Blue, sorted and collected 350 50-gallon bags at Dallas’ Shakespeare Festival. No processor or collector would accept the recyclable material, primarily because the demand for goods made from postconsumer paper was almost nonexistent.
This experience inspired Kemper to start a business to spur demand for recycled products. In April 1993, Kemper founded Dolphin Blue, an online provider of recycled office products. Kemper’s pitch to some corporate entities (now claiming to be green) fell on deaf ears. Kemper subsequently took his business to government agencies, focusing on the U.S. Postal Service and the Social Security Administration.
Though mechanisms are in place to encourage government agencies and entities to purchase environmentally responsible products, Kemper believes that there are numerous reasons why government agencies have taken a lead role in sustainability initiatives. Chief among the reasons, these organizations use massive amounts of paper and see firsthand the problems associated with waste. Further, manufacturers are producing many more environmentally responsible products than they were 10 years ago, and the overall quality of products available has improved tremendously.
Recycling undeliverable mail
The U.S. Postal Service understands the importance of environmental stewardship. The agency deals with thousands of tons of “undeliverable bulk business mail,” or UBBM. Disposing of that much waste paper has a high cost, especially if waste-hauling fees are calculated on those thousands of tons. Recycling this relatively clean source of fiber for paper production makes sense economically and ecologically.
To gain maximum value for the recyclable UBBM, it also makes economic sense to purchase paper made from recovered/recycled fibers so the recoverable UBBM fibers have greater value. Waste equals feedstock, just like in nature.
Paper and paper packaging are the No. 1 volume commodity entering the waste stream. Using recycled office products in lieu of virgin-material products helps save energy, reduce emissions and preserve our forests.
In 1997, commonly used office products such as envelopes made from recycled content were difficult to find on the commercial market. The U.S. Postal Service was in the beginning stages of a program called Saving of America’s Resources (SOAR). Kemper provided manufacturers with a customer that was willing to purchase large quantities of envelopes made from recycled content. He provided the U.S. Postal Service with products that met their specifications and delivered them in a timely manner.
In 1997, 20 percent postconsumer recycled envelopes were the most readily available products on the market.
The envelopes Dolphin Blue first produced were in the following sizes (in inches), all with latex self-sealing flaps:
- 4 ½ by 7 ½.
- 6 by 10 ½.
- 9 by 12.
- 10 by 13.
In 1999, Kemper found a manufacturer who produced 60 percent postconsumer recycled-content (PCR) envelopes. The move to 60 percent PCR paper for manufacturing envelopes also allowed Dolphin Blue to provide envelopes from a paper that was certified processed chlorine-free (PCF).
In 2002, Rolland Paper, the manufacturer of the 60 percent PCR and certified PCF paper, subsequently introduced an 80 percent PCR and certified PCF paper, which Dolphin Blue then began using for its Postal Service envelopes.
Rolland Paper followed the 80 percent PCR and certified PCF paper with a 100 percent PCR and certified PCF paper, which also were used for Postal Service envelopes.
Now, all envelopes that Dolphin Blue provides to the U.S. Postal Service computerized forwarding system units are:
- Made of 100% postconsumer recycled fiber that also is certified processed chlorine-free.
- Made of 60-pound-offset-weight white paper that is 90 brightness.
- Printed with soy inks.
- Employ Latex Gum self-seal closure.
Green procurement 101
Considerable confusion exists among agency buyers and the public as to the meaning and merits of certain environmental attributes. As a rule of thumb, the standard for measurement of ecological value is whether a product contains postconsumer recycled material. Postconsumer material indicates a material or finished product that has served its intended use and has been discarded for disposal or recovery, having completed its life as a consumer item.
Postconsumer material is part of the broader category of “recovered material.” The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed a list of EPA-designated products in its Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines to provide federal agencies with purchasing recommendations on specific products in recovered material advisory notices. The recovered material advisory notices, which EPA publishes periodically in the Federal Register, contain recommended recovered and postconsumer-material content levels for the specific products designated by the agency (see 40 CFR Part 247 and http://www.epa.gov/cpg/).
Recovered materials means waste materials and byproducts recovered or diverted from solid waste, but the term does not include those materials and byproducts generated from and commonly reused within an original manufacturing process (see Executive Order 13101 and 42 U.S.C. 6903 ) and http://www.epa.gov/cpg/). For paper and paper products, see the definition at FAR 11.301 (42 U.S.C. 6962 [h]).
Products should meet minimum EPA standards, usually 30 percent for paper goods and less for other office supplies. However, many products today contain as much as 100 percent postconsumer recycled material and are indistinguishable from virgin-material products.
To meet your green procurement needs, make sure that all products purchased meet or exceed federal guidelines as stated in Executive Order 13101, Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines under the recovered materials advisory notice and Section 6002 of the Resource Conservation Recovery Act.
Dolphin Blue has created areas on its Web site specifically for buyers who are qualified to make purchases under the GSA MAS 75 Schedule for all office supplies and services, also known as Worldwide Federal Supply Schedule for FSC Group 75 – Office Products/Supplies and Services and New Products Technology. All products listed in these areas meet or exceed green procurement requirements.
Dolphin Blue provided this case history. The views and opinions expressed in this case history do not necessarily represent those of GovPro.com.