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Purchasing for Waste Reduction

Here is a list of ideas for departments to use to help jump start waste prevention efforts and save money. 

Review your existing purchasing policies to assure they do not exclude buying goods with recycled content or products designed to be reused or recycled. 

Modify policies to promote procurement of products that:

  1. are designed to last long (e.g., have long warranties and available repair services)
  2. have interchangeable parts so they are easy to repair
  3. can be reused or recycled 
  4. are made from recycled materials 
  5. do not contain toxic materials, and 
  6. have minimal packaging, if any.

Show your commitment to using resources wisely by stating in bid packets that your organization expects suppliers to participate in waste prevention and recycling. 

Below are a few ways to reduce waste through purchasing. Think about what will work for your department and brainstorm new ideas. 

  • Re-evaluate items purchases. Are they really necessary? 
  • Purchase refillable or reusable products. 
  • Conduct a pre-purchase review to consider alternatives to disposal and single-use products. 
  • Purchase the lightest, smallest durable product that will complete the task. 
  • Practice "just-in-time" supply to avoid over purchasing and spoilage. 
  • Purchase products that don't need batteries or do use solar energy (e.g. manual pencil sharpeners, solar powered calculators). 
  • Select non-toxic products. Read labels. Look for products that do not have warnings and do not require special handling or ventilation. 
  • Choose concentrated cleaning solutions in bulk form. These give you more products for less packaging. Dispense liquid solutions in pump spray bottles rather than aerosol containers. 
    Purchase products without less packaging, with less packaging, or reusable packaging. Ask suppliers not to over package orders. 
  • Ask vendors to take back packaging. In some cases they may be able to reuse it.. Alternatively, save and reuse packaging materials. Offer excess packaging materials to firms that can use them. 
  • Purchase copiers and printers that make two-sided copies reliably. Maintain machines on a regular basis to reduce jams. 
  • Research alternative technologies that can prevent waste. 
  • Purchase rebuilt or refilled toner cartridges. These generally are much cheaper than new ones. Check your warranties and service contracts for equipment. Maintain equipment to maximize its life.