California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

State Agency Buy Recycled Campaign

Greenhouse Gas Benefits

Procurement decisions made by state agencies and departments are directly linked to the climate change goals of Assembly Bill (AB) 32 and the recycling goals of AB 341. These decisions impact the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the carbon footprint of state operations, and they offer an opportunity to increase markets for post-consumer recycled content (PCRC) products, which is critical to achieve AB 341’s 75 percent statewide recycling goal.

Increasing the procurement of PCRC products reduces GHG emissions. In particular, using PCRC products can reduce the GHG emissions from multiple phases of product production; including extraction of raw materials, preprocessing, and manufacturing. A co-benefit of increased procurement of PCRC products is avoided methane emissions at landfills from the decomposition of organic materials. Methane is one of the most potent GHGs. Another co-benefit results from purchasing and using compost and mulch, which increases carbon storage in soils and reduces use of fertilizers, pesticides, and water.

To take ownership of the waste that state agencies generate in California, they must show leadership by meeting their State Agency Buy Recycled Campaign (SABRC) mandates. This will further increase the market for remanufactured materials and help meet GHG and waste reduction goals.

For detailed information, see “Appendix C – Waste Management Sector” in the 2013 Scoping Plan Update at http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/scopingplan/2013_update/waste.pdf. The state procurement paper begins on Page 48.

The State of California purchases large volumes and a wide variety of goods. The state spent approximately $12.8 billion on services and $1.5 billion on goods in 2012 (which was a relatively low-spending year due to budget cuts). The Department of General Services, which is the central purchasing authority for all state agencies, has programs that influence procurement decisions, as do CalRecycle and other state agencies.

To illustrate how purchasing can impact GHG emissions, a study prepared for the California Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board suggests that significant life-cycle GHG emissions reductions can be achieved through the use of product “carbon footprint” labels and procurement of PCRC products. In addition, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study shows that more than 40 percent of GHG emissions are associated with the provision of goods and food, as indicated in the following figure.

Systems-Based View of U.S. GHG Emissions (2006)

Case Study: Printing and Writing Paper Procurement and GHG Emissions

According to SABRC, the state spent $29 million in 2011 on printing and writing paper procurement, of which only $17 million (approximately 366,750 cases) was spent on SABRC compliant printing and writing paper (at least 30 percent PCRC), as shown in the following table.

SABRC Data for Printing and Writing Paper, Fiscal Year 2011-2012
Total SABRC Reportable Dollars
(Million $)
Total SABRC Compliant* Dollars
(Million $)
Noncompliant Expenditures Dollars
(Million $)
29.4 17.2 12.2
*"Compliant" refers to the paper having a least 30 percent PCRC

Based on the 2011 SABRC data, 9,169 tons of noncompliant printing and writing paper and 12,991 tons of compliant (at least 30 percent PCRC) printing and writing paper was purchased. The GHG emissions associated with the 2011 printing and writing paper procurement are approximately 52,646 metric tons of CO2 equivalents (MTCO2e).

The following scenarios, using printing and writing paper as an example, are provided to illustrate how a change in the state’s procurement practices can result in GHG emission reductions and increased market demand for recycled content materials. Although these scenarios are focused on printing and writing paper procurement for illustrative purposes, CalRecycle’s procurement goals are not limited to this particular product type. CalRecycle is committed to promoting the procurement of higher PCRC in other products, including all of the product types in the SABRC program.

Scenario 1: If half of all state agencies’ copy paper purchases contain 50 percent PCRC and half of the purchases contain 100 percent PCRC, the total estimated GHG emissions would be 40,709 MTCO2e. This represents a 23 percent reduction in GHG emissions (11,937 MTCO2e) from the emissions associated with the state’s printing and writing paper procurement in 2011, and would result in market demand for approximately 12,000 tons of recycled feedstock. This is equivalent to 1,360,766 gallons of gasoline saved. This scenario, which would increase market demand for recycled content fiber, illustrates how a change in the state’s copy paper procurement practices can result in GHG emission reductions.

Scenario 2: If all state agencies’ copy paper purchases contain 100 percent PCRC, the total estimated GHG emissions would be 35,512 MTCO2e. This represents a 33 percent reduction in GHG emissions (17,133 MTCO2e) from the emissions associated with the state’s printing and writing paper procurement in 2011 and would result in market demand for approximately 18,000 tons of recycled feedstock. This is equivalent to 1,953,187 gallons of gasoline saved. This scenario, which also would increase market demand for recycled content fiber, illustrates how a change in the state’s copy paper procurement practices can result in GHG emission reductions.

The two scenarios are illustrated in the following chart, along with the state’s 2011 printing and writing paper purchases for comparison.

State Printing and Writing Paper Purchases, Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalent
  1. http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/single-project.php?row_id=64820
  2. Opportunities to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Materials and Land Management Practices,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, September 2009.
  3. Once FI$Cal is operating, state agencies will have increased abilities to report specific PCRC levels, which should result in improved reporting and better estimates of GHG emissions from the state’s procurement.
  4. http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/factsheets/1mmtconversion.pdf
  5. http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/factsheets/1mmtconversion.pdf
Last updated: July 14, 2016
State Agency Buy Recycled Campaign, http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/BuyRecycled/StateAgency/
Contact: SABRC@calrecycle.ca.gov, (916) 341-6199