EPA program helps agencies reduce waste

fmicciche@govexec.com

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched an aggressive campaign to encourage recycling and waste reduction among federal agencies, building off the success it has enjoyed in promoting such green practices to the private sector.

EPA is hoping that the expertise it developed working with more than 1,000 private, and a few public, partners in the WasteWise program will be useful to agencies striving to meet the requirements of 1998's Executive Order 13101, "Greening the Government Through Waste Prevention, Recycling and Federal Acquisition".

The order requires that all federal facilities develop a five-year plan for waste prevention, improved recycling and the purchase of recycled materials. These goals have been at the core of WasteWise since its inception in 1994.

"It only makes sense; there is a natural link between WasteWise and E.O. 13101," said Fran McPoland, who oversees the White House Task Force on Waste Prevention and Recycling. "This will benefit federal agencies by helping them increase their operational efficiencies and reduce waste."

The program is chiefly focused on providing the information necessary to identify waste reduction opportunities and to set and meet goals in reduction and green purchasing, as well as publicly recognizing the gains made by participants. The free, voluntary initiative functions on a mere $1 million annual budget.

Agencies who join up will be among a "who's who" of corporate America, including Anheuser Busch, Verizon and McDonald's, along with state and tribal governments, universities, small businesses and the U.S. Postal Service. The program boasts of helping participants save $830 million in disposal costs, prevent 2.4 million tons of potential waste and recycle 24 million tons of excess material in its first six years.

EPA has undertaken a multi-pronged approach to advertising WasteWise to federal agencies. They have canvassed environmental Web sites and list servers with information, and mailed brochures to thousands of federal managers. A presentation on the benefits of WasteWise is now also a staple of conferences and exhibitions attended by EPA staffers. As a further attraction, the agency is offering to designate any facilities that come on board before September 30 as Charter Federal Partners. Nearly fifty federal partners already take part.

Since July, the Maryland office of the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Education's Philadelphia Civil Rights branch and the Sacramento regional postal service have become WasteWise partners.

Agencies interested in signing up should go to the WasteWise Federal Welcome Center or call the program's toll-free helpline at 800 EPA-WISE (372-9473).

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