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Air Force Base, GSA Reduce Hazardous Purchases

At a Glance

Environmental Attributes:
Source reduction of hazardous chemicals such as paints, primers, and sealants used in airplane maintenance.

Contract Language:
Contracts are unavailable due to base closure.

Key players:
Staff from McClellan's Hazardous Material Support Center (HMSC) and the U.S. General Services Administration worked together to develop the contracts.

Environmental Information Sources:
Not applicable.

Cut purchase of hazardous items from $4.9 million to $2 million; reduced inventory of hazardous items from $3.2 million to just $414,000; significantly reduced generation of hazardous waste.

Contact Information:
Listed at the end of the case study.

Practicing environmentally preferable purchasing applies not just to items purchased, but also to the amount purchased, and when. McClellan Air Force Base teamed with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and its suppliers to develop new contracts for unit-of-use purchasing and just-in-time delivery, in response to a mandate issued by the U.S. Air Force in 1993 that all facilities reduce hazardous waste generation. By employing environmentally preferable purchasing principles, such as purchasing smaller quantities of supplies only when needed, McClellan reduced its inventory of hazardous products from $3.2 million to $414,000 and significantly reduced hazardous waste generation.

Taking Inventory of the Situation

In July 1993, McClellan took the first step toward decreasing its hazardous waste by forming the Hazardous Material Support Center (HMSC), which combined the experience of personnel from procurement and supply, bioenvironmental engineering, and environmental management. This group evaluated the base's current products inventory and discovered $3.2 million of hazardous materials such as paints, primers, epoxies, and sealants used to maintain and repair aircraft. Eighty percent of these materials had been stored beyond their expiration dates and were no longer usable. The group also discovered that while buying large drums of materials enabled the base to take advantage of bulk discounts, only very small quantities (about 3 ounces) were needed at a time, which left most of the material to be wasted. This increased disposal costs, which eliminated any cost savings resulting from the bulk purchases.

Feedback from mechanics and maintenance personnel confirmed HMSC's findings and helped the group determine ways to reduce expired and unused materials. Many of the products had to be mixed prior to application, increasing exposure risk to workers and requiring additional supplies and labor time to mix and test the product. If not mixed exactly right, the entire solution- up to 55 gallons worth- often would have to be disposed of. In light of these revelations, HMSC asked the mechanics what the procurement division could do to make their job easier. Their answer was to purchase premixed solutions in smaller, easier-to-use quantities.

Armed with this information, HMSC met with the GSA office in Auburn, Washington, and one of its vendors. Their combined efforts resulted in the implementation of two contract mechanisms, unit-of-use and just-in-time delivery, now used widely at Air Force bases and throughout the aerospace industry.


To address the issue of large quantities of hazardous materials expiring before being used or being wasted due to improper mixing or handling, the vendor agreed to repackage primer and paint products in 3-ounce containers, the amount most frequently used for touch-up jobs. The kit, similar to a fountain pen, contains the required ingredients in proper proportions and is a combined mixing container and applicator. This revolutionary packaging saves money, increases productivity by easing application and reducing labor, lessens exposure risks to workers, and eliminates hazardous waste. Using the repackaged primer alone saved McClellan $26,000 per year in material, labor, and disposal costs.

In return for the supplier's repackaging efforts, HMSC promised to get national stock numbers for each of the new products on the GSA Supply Schedule and to promote the products to others. The overwhelmingly favorable response by procurement officers led the vendor to offer two more sizes of the primer, 2-ounce and 6-ounce, and to drop the price by about 60 percent. The vendor has since repackaged other products such as frozen cements, sealants, and adhesives, all of which are now being widely used at U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and non-DOD facilities.

Just-in-Time Delivery

Eliminating overstocking, expiration, and storage concerns, McClellan included just-in-time delivery language in its contracts, indicating the frequency with which products should be delivered. Rather than order a year's worth of supplies in large containers to be delivered at once, McClellan now receives smaller shipments of smaller-quantity products only when needed, either quarterly, monthly, or weekly—"just in time" for the project at hand. This method ensures the products are on hand when they are needed rather than having them sit in a warehouse, possibly expiring before they can be used.

The Results

Since McClellan adopted an environmentally preferable purchasing perspective and implemented unit-of-use and just-in-time delivery contracts, the base has reduced its generation of hazardous waste drastically while saving money, time, and labor; reducing exposure of toxic materials to workers; and eliminating storage needs and shelf-life problems. With 50 such contracts in place, McClellan cut its purchase of hazardous materials from $4.9 million in fiscal year 1995- one third of which was wasted- to $2 million in 1999, with almost no hazardous waste being generated. In addition to less hazardous waste polluting the environment, the base reduced other wastes from mixing and dividing the contents of large barrels into smaller quantities, including protective equipment for workers, mixing containers, bottles, labels, and hazardous waste drums.

Lessons Learned

HMSC members are extremely proud of the accomplishments they achieved at McClellan. They feel the most important step in improving procurement habits and adopting environmentally preferable purchasing practices is working together to evaluate problems and identify needs. By asking the people most familiar with the products being used, HMSC discovered a better way to order supplies. "All you have to do is get out of your chair and ask," said Mari-Ann Weidig of the HMSC and McClellan's procurement division. Looking for workers' input and having their best interests at hand helped HMSC and the procurement division gain the trust of the workers- an added bonus to the achievement of reducing hazardous waste.

Working with GSA and the manufacturer, HMSC was able to find solutions that were beneficial to all. Bringing together all parties involved in the supply line helped each participant better understand what was needed to create a positive change. The ideas and solutions became part of the contract. "There isn't anything you can't write into a contract," Weidig advised.

In the end, everyone gained from the experience. McClellan achieved its goal to reduce hazardous waste and save money, the manufacturer gained added sales opportunities with aerospace facilities, and GSA became better equipped to serve its customers with added national stock numbered items. Just as important, the combined efforts help to protect the environment and human health and further demonstrate the advantages of environmentally preferable purchasing.

For more information on McClellan Air Force Base's unit-of-use and just-in-time delivery contracts, contact Mari-Ann Weidig at 916 643-3672, Ext. 357.

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