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Environmentally Preferrable Purchasing Guides - Response to Comments

Key Policy, Guidance Documents

EPA's Final Guidance on EPP

Executive Orders

Federal Acquisition Regulation

Green Purchasing Guides

Information on Standards for Green Products, Services

  1. Background
  2. Cleaners Guide
  3. Carpets Guide
  4. Copiers Guide
  5. Meetings and Conferences Guide

I. Background

On June 30, 2004, EPA issued a Federal Register (FR) notice soliciting public comment on four draft Environmentally Preferrable Purchasing (EPP) Guides. The intent of the guides is to help federal government purchasers consider the environmental factors in the EPP equation when making purchases in the following areas:

The FR notice also asked several questions, including whether the guides' discussions were helpful and whether the approach used in the guides was useful. The comment period was open for 60 days. EPA received 24 comments in all, including some comments that were submitted late: 11 on the Cleaning Products Guide; 2 on the Copiers Guide; 7 on the Carpets Guide; 1 on the Meetings and Conferences Guide; and 3 general comments applicable to multiple guides.

Comments were submitted by 9 trade associations, 6 companies/labs, 4 government purchasers, 2 individuals, 2 anonymous, and 1 environmental choice program.

This document summarizes the major comments received on the guides and includes EPA's responses to those comments.

II. Cleaners Guide

Comment: Several commenters requested that EPA's Design for the Environment (DfE) Formulator Initiative and the Unified Green Cleaning Alliance be added to the list of resources in the guide.

Response: EPA concurs and has added these references to the revised draft.

Comment: Several commenters submitted minor editorial comments either in written format or within a redlined version of the guide.

Response: EPA has incorporated most of these edits in the revised draft. Others that did not adhere to EPA's style were not accepted.

Comment: Several commenters expressed concern over the issue of life cycle analysis, main concerns being that it needs to be better defined as it relates to cleaning products, and that it is costly to implement.

Response: As EPA has indicated in the guides, life cycle analysis is one of EPA's five guiding principles for making environmentally preferable purchases. To assist purchasers further, EPA has added a link in the guide for additional information on life cycle analysis.

Comment: Several organizations submitted comments in effect saying that the choice of a particular product or ingredient is affected or influenced by certain situations or circumstances and that the selection process is not always straightforward.

Response: EPA agrees that tradeoff issues are involved in the product selection process. The guides were not intended to be prescriptive, but rather to provide suggestions to help government purchasers consider environmental factors when making purchasing decisions. In the first paragraph of the guides, EPA acknowledges that multiple factors are important.

Comment: The Consumer Products Specialty Corporation (CSPA) and the Alkylphenols & Ethoxylates Research Council (APERC) submitted similar comments expressing concern that EPA is providing information that is not verified by the referenced organizations.

Response: As noted earlier, EPA's purpose in the guides is to identify a number of environmental factors to consider in purchasing decisions. These considerations come from EPA, other government agencies, industry, and non-governmental organizations. The organizations referenced in the guides are credible, reputable organizations that EPA and others have worked with for years. As noted in the introductory paragraph, EPA is not endorsing specific organizations or products and has not verified all information provided by these organizations. Fact checking and verifying all of the information posted or published by these groups was not possible given the time and resources available.

Comment: A couple of organizations commented that the guide should address cleaning as a process, not just focus on products or ingredients.

Response: Ingredients are a relevant consideration; however, the guide does include a number of other attributes besides ingredient characteristics. The purpose of the guide is to provide information related to purchasing decisions. Comprehensive information on cleaning processes and practices is available from a variety of sources (some of these were already included in the "Contacts and Resources" section of the guide and others have been added).

Comment: ServiceMaster Clean submitted a comment saying that EPA should be careful when using the term "hazardous" to describe cleaning products.

Response: EPA has used this term in the guide to accurately categorize the concentrated forms of some cleaners, as defined by several regulatory programs.

Comment: APERC submitted a comment questioning why EPA has "dismissed the basic principles of risk assessment."

Response: The purpose of the guide is to provide practical information that will assist federal purchasers in making purchasing decisions. The guide is not intended to be a risk assessment document, nor is it meant to substitute for Material Safety Data Sheets or similar documents that provide important information on proper storage, handling, use, and disposal. Many of the recommendations in the guide are based on the fundamental pollution prevention principles of reducing the quantity and hazards of materials used. The pursuit of pollution prevention objectives is not dependent on risk findings.

Comment: Both CSPA and APERC submitted comments arguing that an entire class of compounds - alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs) - should not be implicated because of a single ingredient. APERC also believes that EPA has mistaken nonylphenol with nonylphenol ethoxylates regarding its inference about reproductive effects and endocrine disruption.

Response: The actual risks from these chemicals at typical exposure levels are often uncertain, and in many cases are probably low. Regardless of the expected risk levels, however, reducing the intrinsic hazard of a product is a desirable pollution prevention objective as part of decisions that also take into account other important product attributes. EPA also notes the following information from a National Academy of Sciences report that corroborates the Agency's statement: "...alkylphenol ethoxylates have been shown to induce vitellogenin synthesis, a hallmark of estrogen exposure, and to decrease the rate of testicular growth in male fish in tests that duplicate concentrations found in some effluents." Hormonally Active Agents in the Environment, National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences, 1999.

Comment: The Soap and Detergent Association submitted a comment expressing concern over the guide's implication that cleaning products containing phosphorus or nitrogen are contributing to nutrient loading in water bodies. The organization pointed out that any relevant contributions are negligible.

Response: EPA recognizes the commenter's concern and has amended the revised draft guide accordingly.

Comment: CSPA submitted a comment disputing the statistic in the guide regarding cleaning products' contribution to nonvehicular VOC emissions in California.

Based on a review of the data, EPA has deleted this sentence.

Comment: Several organizations submitted comments disputing the statement in the guide regarding reports to Poison Control Centers involving cleaning products.

Response: EPA acknowledges that the statistic referenced in the guide relates to household cleaning products, not commercial, and is therefore not applicable to this guide. EPA has replaced the statistic with one that is more relevant to commercial cleaners.

Comment: ServiceMaster Clean and the Soap and Detergent Association took issue with the guide's suggestion that purchasers use cleaning products that are made from renewable resources, such as biobased materials. The commenters claimed that this decision should be made on a case by case basis and that life cycle studies do not show a clear advantage to using renewable resources.

Response: Use of renewable resources is a commonly accepted environmental principle aimed at conserving natural resources and reducing pollution. EPA emphasizes that the attributes mentioned in the guide are merely considerations, and that different situations may require purchasers to be more focused on particular attributes. EPA points out in the "What Can You Do?" section of the guide that the overall best value when making purchasing decisions takes into account performance, price, availability, regulatory requirements, and environmental impact. EPA further states that purchasers should examine as many relevant product attributes as possible, recognizing that tradeoffs are inevitable.

Comment: ServiceMaster Clean indicated that "LD50" testing involves animal testing and that this may be at odds with the ethical policies of some companies.

Response: The lethal and effective dose concentrations indicated in the guide are related to aquatic testing, not mammalian. EPA's inclusion of "low aquatic toxicity" in its list of desirable attributes is again based on the approach of reducing hazards while also taking into account other important product attributes. EPA also reiterates that this is just one attribute that should be examined, with the understanding that tradeoffs are to be expected.

Comment: CSPA indicated that it strongly disagrees with the guide's statement to limit the use of disinfectants.

Response: EPA has clarified this statement in the revised guide by indicating when disinfectant use is most appropriate (i.e., in areas where people are likely to come in contact with the contaminated surface) and when it is less useful.

Comment: CSPA also indicated that broad claims such as "environmentally preferable" should not be used and are contrary to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) environmental marketing guide.

Response: EPA notes that this is the term used in E.O. 13101, "Greening the Government through Waste Prevention, Recycling, and Federal Acquisition." The purpose of the guide is to assist federal purchasers in determining environmental preferability. Use of the term in an advertising or marketing context is a different issue.

Comment: ServiceMaster Clean expressed concern that the attributes regarding clear labeling and information on use and disposal could mean an additional regulatory burden for companies.

Response: EPA notes that the guide is not adding regulatory requirements. In addition to following existing regulatory requirements, it is simply common sense for consumers to purchase products with clear labels and instructions.

Comment: Coastwide Laboratories suggested adding language regarding the efforts a company has made to minimize the effects of transportation.

Response: EPA believes that many of the "Packaging and Shipping" attributes in the guide, such as having products shipped in bulk and using refillable bottles, already inherently take into account transportation effects.

Comment: CSPA believes the Contacts and Resources list in the guide is too focused on environmental groups.

Response: EPA has researched and added other resources to create a more complete list.

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III. Carpets Guide

Comment: Several commenters submitted minor editorial suggestions to be incorporated into the guide.

Response: EPA has incorporated these edits when applicable.

Comment: The Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence submitted a comment suggesting that EPA remove the reference to using polyethylene terephthalate (PET) carpet in offices and residential areas (which the guide says are light to moderate-wear conditions) because the Air Force classifies offices as heavy to severe-wear, and residential as moderate to severe-wear, which would preclude them from using PET carpet.

Response: EPA added language to the guide explaining that, in general, carpet made from PET and polypropylene face fiber is not as durable as carpet made from nylon face fiber and that EPA recommends that consumers refer to the "Selecting Carpet and Rugs" page of the Carpet and Rug Institute's (CRI's) Web site at www.carpet-rug.com/index.cfm when determining which type of carpet to purchase.

Comment: INVISTA submitted a comment indicating that the name "DuPont Carpet Reclamation Program" should be changed to "INVISTA Reclamation Program" to reflect the new corporate identity. INVISTA also indicated that several carpet companies have products that are certified environmentally preferable under Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) Pilot specification.

Response: EPA has changed the name of the program from Dupont to INVISTA in the guide. In addition, EPA added reference to the SCS carpet specification page and the fact that several carpet manufacturers have received this certification.

Comment: The Vinyl Institute submitted a comment suggesting that the sentence that refers to use of recycled polyvinyl chloride (PVC) be expanded to apply more broadly to all materials.

Response: EPA has revised the guide to include all materials in its reference about use of recycled materials.

Comment: An EPA Region 9 employee submitted a comment noting controversy regarding the use of recycled PVC. The commenter included and article from Healthy Building News. The commenter also believes the guide should specify non-PentaBromodiphenyl Ether (PeBDE) carpet cushion since PeBDE is/has been phased out.

Response: While EPA agrees that some controversy may exist regarding the use of PVC in carpet, the Agency notes that the guide merely acknowledges the availability of recycled PVC in carpet. EPA is in no way saying that PVC should be considered over other recycled materials. Regarding the specification of non-PBDE carpet cushion, EPA has added language to this effect in the guide.

Comment: Collins & Aikman (C&A) submitted a comment suggesting that EPA mention another new product in the "Materials Used in Carpet" section of the guide. The product is a carpet backing made from postconsumer glass and polyvinyl butyral (PVB) plastic recovered from windshield and safety glass recycling.

Response: EPA has added reference to the new carpet backing product in the guide.

Comment: The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) submitted several comments related to health and environmental issues; life cycle and tradeoff issues; the five guiding principles; and the "What Can You Do?" sections.

Response: EPA has added language addressing several of CRI's comments in the revised guide.

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IV. Copiers Guide

Comment: The American Plastics Council (APC) believes that all of the points listed under "Why Green Your Copier?" are already covered by ENERGY STAR and other programs.

Response: EPA acknowledges that several other programs offer guidance for choosing environmentally preferable copiers, but the Agency notes that the purpose of its Copiers Guide is to present existing information in one useful resource to assist federal government purchasers in making purchasing decisions.

Comment: TerraChoice requested that the Canadian Environmental Choice Program's new product certification criterion CCD-035 for Copiers be added to the guide.

Response: EPA has added reference to Canada's Environmental Choice Program and its photocopier certification in the "Contacts and Resources" section of the guide.

Comment: The Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA) questions the need for the guide, citing the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) and other EPA-led efforts underway to address EPP for electronics.

Response: EPA agrees that there are several quite useful projects underway to address environmental issues for electronics, but the Agency notes that not all of these efforts specifically target copiers, which is the focus of this guide. In particular, EPA strongly supports the EPEAT process and commends EIA for its involvement in it, but notes that copiers are not currently included in it. In addition, the EPP guides are meant to pull together relevant information for procurement officials from a number of sources beyond EPA, including other governments, businesses, and non-government groups. There are other sources of information for this guide besides the efforts cited in the comment.

Comment: EIA claims that the guide fails to adhere to such principles as use of life cycle environmental impacts.

Response: EPA notes that it is difficult to respond to this comment because no further explanations or examples are provided to support the statement. However, the Agency notes that life cycle analysis is one of EPA's five guiding principles for making environmentally preferable purchasing decisions and is discussed in the guide multiple times. To assist purchasers further, EPA has added a link in the guide for additional information on life cycle analysis.

Comment: EIA states that the "guidelines lack scientific and technical rigor."

Response: EPA did not intend for the Copiers Guide to present specific criteria for purchasing environmentally preferable products. The purpose of the guide is merely to describe the challenges, successes, and resources associated with copiers, focusing on how to incorporate environmental considerations into purchasing decisions. EPA has outlined overall principles for its EPP Program and EPA clearly identifies its EPP guidelines on its Web site. These guidelines do not require any agency to use any specific documents, such as the Copiers Guide. To further clarify the purpose of the EPP guides, EPA has replaced the term "guidelines" with "considerations" in each of the guides.

Comment: EIA stated that "a number of the suggested characteristics are not easily quantifiable."

Response: EPA has attempted to cite numeric standards when available, but notes that some of the environmental considerations suggested in the guide involve less quantitative actions. While this sometimes complicates the procurement decision, these points are still believed to be worth considering.

Comment: EIA does not support the use of third-party testing for product research.

Response: EPA agrees with EIA that procurement officials should use industry-developed statements and self certifications, and has added language to that effect to the guide, but also believes that there may be a role for third party testing and thus continues to include it as an example.

Comment: EIA recommends that the scope of the document be limited to stand-alone, standard-size copiers only, but does not explain the basis for this preference.

Response: Absent more information on the basis for this, EPA will retain the guide's current scope, which does address multi-functional systems as well as stand-alone copiers.

Comment: EIA "is concerned that the guideline has added categories that are beyond the scope of environmental characteristics," but also says the guide "fails to account properly for other important factors, including price, performance, service, reliability, etc."

Response: Although the guide focuses on environmental characteristics, in certain places it does refer to other relevant considerations in the purchase decision, such as cost. In fact, the guides include discussion of EPA's five guiding principles, one of which is to "include environmental factors as well as traditional considerations of price and performance as part of the normal purchasing process."

Comment: EIA believes the toner cartridge recommendation in the guide is unclear and may provide an inappropriate preference for some cartridges.

Response: EPA did not intend to give preference to any particular type of environmentally preferable toner cartridge procurement option. To give equal preference to each option, EPA has changed the recommendation in the guide to read "Use returnable, recyclable, or remanufactured toner cartridges."

Comment: American Plastics Council (APC) submitted a comment questioning the styrene, polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) and diphenyl ethers (PBDE) criteria provided in the guide. Specifically, APC asked for this information to be corroborated, including indicating what the criteria are based on..

Response: An EPA proposed rule on PBDEs refers to these chemicals as persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic. PBBs are classified as carcinogenic by the National Toxicology Program and International Agency for Research on Cancer and are also persistent and bioaccumulative. Neurological effects have been seen in workers exposed to styrene and there is suggestive evidence of adverse reproductive effects in exposed workers. Animal studies with styrene have also shown effects in the liver, kidneys, blood, and immune system. The reference concentrations (RfC) for styrene is 1 mg/m3.

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V. Meetings and Conferences Guide

Comment: An individual commented that the first sentence of the guide is too jocular considering the serious nature of the guide.

Response: EPA acknowledges the individual's comment and has changed the first sentence of the guide.

Comment: The same individual commented that he does not believe the guide goes far enough in actually requiring hotels and venues to meet minimum standards or to be rated on their environmental preferability.

Response: The guides are merely intended to provide useful information to assist federal purchasers in making environmentally preferable purchasing decisions. Under E.O. 13101, EPA has no legal or statutory authority to require hotels and other venues to meet minimum standards.

Comment: The American Plastics Council (APC) believes the guide does not include enough information on products that contain recycled content.

Response: EPA notes that it mentions multiple times in the guide to look for recycled content as a desirable attribute when planning meetings. EPA mentions other factors as well to present a balanced approach to decisionmaking.

Comment: APC also questioned why EPA gives preference for reusable mugs over cups that have recycled content.

Response: EPA has included recycled content/recyclable food & beverage items as an option for planning environmentally preferable meetings. The Agency was merely trying to be consistent with its pollution prevention hierarchy, which encourages source reduction (including reuse) first, followed by recycling and composting, and, lastly, disposal in combustion facilities and landfills. To clarify its position, EPA has added language to the guide regarding the use of recycled-content/recyclable containers.

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