Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Obama Executive Order Mandates Recycled Paper to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

President Obama has issued an Executive Order directing the federal government to act as hundreds of leading corporations and other governments are and to review and reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions throughout its operational footprint. The action, if implemented effectively, could result in much greater efficiency and cost savings to taxpayers and stimulation on environmental innovation and green jobs in the marketplace.

The statement from the White House says that Executive Order 13423, "sets sustainability goals for Federal agencies and focuses on making improvements in their environmental, energy and economic performance. The Executive Order requires Federal agencies to set a 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target within 90 days; increase energy efficiency; reduce fleet petroleum consumption; conserve water; reduce waste; support sustainable communities; and leverage Federal purchasing power to promote environmentally-responsible products and technologies."

The direction clearly points to a review of paper use efficiency, to lower emissions and financial costs to the taxpayers. Also included explicitly in those "environmentally responsible products and technologies" is post-consumer recycled paper, and meeting agency defined minimum post-consumer recycled content.

Of course, as many readers may know, these minimums should already be the standard, as President Clinton first issued an Executive Order in his term which specifically created recycled paper content minimums for federal purchases. It is commonly held opinion that Clinton's Order is not currently enforced, nor has been for some time, and needs better oversight to achieve its results, and Government Accounting Office reports have suggested as much.

It is critical that the Steering Committee set up by this new Executive Order from the Obama Administration be an effective body, with transparency and authority to make this program successful. Secondly, it will be critical that the EPA consider increasing its minimum recycled content goals for some paper products, in response to a marketplace that has changed a great deal in the last decade.

Boosting recycled content purchasing would send strong signals to the marketplaces, particularly when occurring in conjunction with a corporate wave of responsible paper purchasing policies forecasting an increase in demand for recycled content. These market forces are creating jobs and rewarding green innovation move the U.S. economy into the 21st Century. Investment in a network of smaller, efficient recycled paper mills near urban centers to collect waster paper from these teeming "papersheds" will create green jobs and significantly reduce the worst environmental impacts of overconsumption of paper from natural forests.

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Download the Executive Order HERE

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