The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, as a part of its responsibility to ensure County compliance with AB 939, has implemented numerous programs encouraging residents as well as businesses to reduce, reuse, and recycle. The County also recognizes that in order for recycling programs to be successful, efforts must be made not only to encourage the purchase of recycled-content products, but also to purchase these products and lead by example.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors (Board) takes great pride that in 1990, the County was among the very first jurisdictions to implement a comprehensive green procurement policy in the region. This procurement policy was broadened in March 1994 to require all County agencies to purchase recycled products whenever they meet the County's requirements, and the overall costs are less than or equal to those of non-recycled products. Because the County was among and is currently the largest employer in Southern California, it was critical that it take the lead in developing and maintaining markets for recyclables.
Recently, to ensure the continued success of the County's recycling efforts and to further demonstrate its leadership, the County has implemented innovative and creative programs to further strengthen the markets for recyclables. Below is a brief description of two such ambitious and renowned programs.
Recycled-content Bond Paper
Recognizing that the County uses nearly two million sheets of paper per day, in September 1999, the Board took an action to substantially enhance the recycled paper market by requiring all County agencies and their contractors to use 20 percent (or higher) recycled-content bond paper, whenever the overall cost is not more than ten percent above the lowest responsible bid for virgin bond paper. This price preference was unprecedented and unparallel (second only to the Federal Government's mandate that its departments use only recycled paper) considering the volume of paper being purchased. Despite preliminary estimates that it may cost the County an additional $200,000 per year during a budget "crunch", the Board proceeded with the implementation of the program.
To further demonstrate its commitment to stimulate the recycled paper market and to encourage other governmental entities to begin using recycled paper, the Board also adopted measures that provide for the establishment of a Cooperative Purchasing Program. This Program enables governmental entities to join the County (free of charge) in purchasing recycled bond paper and benefit financially from the advantage of a collective purchasing power. To date, 26 cities, including the City of Los Angeles, are participating in the Program and numerous other cities have shown an interest in joining the program. The enthusiasm expressed by the cities to join the program has been overwhelming. Coupled with the fact that cities are saving a tremendous amount of money by joining the Program (for example, based on projected annual consumption, the City and County of Los Angeles alone will be saving $84,000 and $40,000 per year, respectively, compared with their previous contracts), the Program is greatly assisting cities in meeting the 50 percent waste diversion mandate.
The improper disposal of used oil, such as pouring it onto the ground or storm drains, or into trash containers, poses serious health and safety problems, pollutes the environment, and causes significant costs for cleanup activities. To address these problems and comply with requirements of the Federal Clean Water Act and AB 939, the County for many years has been collecting and recycling used motor and hydraulic oil lubricants through the operation of ten used oil collection centers and implementation of the multimillion dollar Countywide Household Hazardous Waste Management Program. While the County has made tremendous efforts to collect and recycle these oil lubricants, these efforts have generally addressed the "supply" side of the equation.
To remedy this, the County has taken steps to address the "demand" side of the equation by stimulating the markets for used oil. In 1998, after learning that the price for re-refined oil was higher than their virgin counterparts, the Board expanded its green procurement policy by instructing County departments to use re-refined oil lubricant where and when practical and appropriate. Recognizing how critical this program is in strengthening the used oil market in the Southern California region, the Board also allowed a five percent price preference for re-refined oils over their virgin counterparts. By using the County's purchasing power to its advantage, Public Works was able to lower the cost of re-refined oil products to be equivalent to the cost of virgin products, and significantly less than the cost of what other agencies were paying for the same grade and quality of virgin products.
Managed by the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Works, Environmental Programs Division