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Feature: Paper

Getting people to change their purchasing patterns is no mean feat. Unless you live in some hermit-like existence, as soon as people wake up in the morning they are bombarded with messages over how they should spend their money. By turning on the TV or radio or by reading the paper, the power of advertising hits hard.

Even walking down the street minding your own business you cannot escape. Towering billboards and people handing out flyers just add to the complex network of ways that the public are being worked upon. Not only must you believe a message about a product, you have to believe it strongly enough to go out and act on it.

It is disappointing then, that recycled products make such a marginal appearance in this day-to-day battle of spending power. Items such as recycled paper can often be found next to the economy brands in shops presented as a lesser alternative, or just put where the niche market that will buy it will expect it to be. The day when consumers will be embarrassed to be seen buying non-environmentally friendly products still seems like a long way off. For a great many people, buying recycled is still an occasional token gesture and not a spending habit.

The example has to be set by Government and businesses that are implementing robust green procurement practices. Although having something of a reputation of a slow start and a long way to go in recycling, moves are being made in Scotland to rectify this, setting a positive example to the public. To this end, last month the Scottish Executive launched a consultation paper over the use of recycled content in the public sector.

Entitled Proposals to Set Targets for Recycled Content in Public Sector Procurement, the aim of the paper is to outline what public bodies can when it comes to specifying recycled in contracts, and asks whether targets on this should be set.

The focus of the consultation is paper and construction applications as, it notes: "various mainstream products...are available with a range of recycled content at not extra cost and equal quality." It is these two streams that the Executive proposes have targets set.

Under the banner of paper are included: the direct purchasing of office and copier paper; procurement of reprographic and printing services - for copying, printed publications and business processes such as invoicing and the specification of relevant products in catering and hygiene services, tissue paper, for example.

According to the consultation: "By the start of 2006/7, at least 90% (by value) of all centrally coordinated public procurement contracts relating to construction projects and paper should each have minimum levels of recycled content in the tender specifications for goods, works and services." For printing and writing paper this means products should contain at least 50% recycled content, and 100% for tissue paper.

Performance against targets would be included in existing annual reports and, working with the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and REMADE, best practice would be published on a website. Failure to meet targets would mean that WRAP and REMADE work with the public bodies concerned to see what could be done to improve performance.

Scottish business

The Executive's positive stance on recycled paper is one which apparently is being echoed by Scottish businesses. In Glasgow waste paper is collected free of charge from companies as long they are generating 10 bags a week. However, the city's small businesses, which create less waste, are appealing to the council to collec

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