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Origin of the Project

Cleaning Products Pilot Project (CPPP)

Project History
Project Status
Lessons Learned

GSA's Public Building Service (PBS) began the Cleaning Products Pilot Project (CPPP) in February 1993, although GSA's Biodegradable Cleaners/Degreasers Project was commenced in 1988. At that time, the initial goal of tes project was to identify specific cleaning products with reduced human health and safety concerns for use in cleaning the over 7,700 federal buildings that PBS oversaw. Officials at PBS wanted to develop a list of environmentally preferable cleaning products in five product categories:

Unfortunately most of the publicly available environmental information on such products consisted of unsubstantiated vendor claims or "home remedies," such as cleaning solutions made with lemon juice or vinegar.

PBS officials contacted other GSA officials to help define "green" cleaning products and a team was organized to address the problem. The team met with members of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to explore the possibility of using FTC's Guide for Use of Environmental Marketing Claims to guide purchasers towards specific cleaning products. After determining that the FTC guidelines were not intended to be used for this purpose and that identifying environmentally preferable products was outside the scope of the FTC's mission, the GSA team contacted EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) for assistance.

OPPT staff explained that as a government agency, EPA is prohibited from endorsing or recommending specific commercial products or brand names, even as a courtesy to another government agency. As a result, OPPT declined to recommend specific products, but agreed to join GSA team members in developing characteristics that could be used to identify environmentally preferable cleaning products. The preliminary characteristics identified by the GSA/EPA team were:

In addition, the team agreed that EPA should, if feasible, examine the life cycle impacts of cleaning products through life-cycle assessment.

While examining the preliminary characteristics, the GSA/EPA team realized that a complete life-cycle assessment would be difficult. Such an analysis involves examining the environmental effects across five different product stages:

  1. Premanufacturing
  2. Manufacturing
  3. Distribution and packaging
  4. Use
  5. Waste disposal

The time required for a complete, or even abbreviated, lifecycle assessment exceeded GSA's need to implement the program quickly and better serve its customers. As a result, the GSA/EPA team decided to focus primarily on one stage in the life cycle - product use. Product use was selected because the greatest direct health risk from cleaning products to janitorial workers and building occupants occurs during use.

In addition to product use, the GSA/EPA team also agreed to examine product packaging because the packaging used to deliver cleaning products affects its use and resulting exposure. Some cleaning products, for example, are purchased as concentrates to minimize storage requirements. Concentrated cleaning solution can increase worker exposure and the associated human health risks. There are packaging and delivery systems available, however, that minimize storage requirements, reduce worker exposure, and reduce environmental impact during the product distribution and disposal.

The GSA team brought the preliminary environmental product characteristics to the attention of the Federal Supply Service (FSS), GSA's procurement and supply division, to determine if they could be incorporated into their Supply Catalog. Coincidentally, as a part of former President Clinton's Reinventing Government Initiative, FSS's Paint and Chemical Commodity Center was already working on a similar project, which was based on GSA's Biodegradable Cleaners/Degreasers Project that began in 1988. The Federal Supply Schedule Contract for Biodegradable Cleaners/Degreasers (solicitation number FTC-92-MT-7906B) was already underway to identify commercially available biodegradable cleaners and degreasers. GSA's reinvention initiatives provided the flexibility necessary for FSS members to join the project team and help evaluate the preliminary environmentally preferable product characteristics.

Over a five month period, from November 1993 to March 1994, the GSA/EPA team met with numerous commercial cleaning stakeholders, including manufacturers, vendors, public interest groups, commercial janitorial companies, industry trade associations, and unions to help identify cleaning product attributes that result in fewer burdens on human health and the environment.

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