The National Recycling Forum (NRF) revealed last December that it intended to set up a US-style programme to stimulate businesses to buy more recycled products when it gave evidence to the House of Commons Environment Committee (ENDS Report 227, pp 28-29 ).
The NRF held the inaugural meeting of the Buy Recycled programme last January. Blue chip companies were invited to discuss the idea.
There was considerable support for the initiative, but many of the most enthusiastic businesses were involved at the time in negotiations on the Government's Producer Responsibility initiative on packaging waste. It was not until the autumn that enough was known about the structure and likely costs of that venture to encourage companies to make commitments to the NRF's programme.
Once pledges of money reached £20,000, the NRF proceeded with the launch of the programme. It will continue to seek other sources of funding, with two possible sources being the Department of the Environment's environmental grants fund and the group designated to handle the packaging industry's producer responsibility initiative, Valpak.
In the scheme's first year, founder members will pay £1,000. Ordinary membership cost £250. These fees reflect start-up costs and are expected to fall from the second year. Special rates for voluntary groups and small firms are being considered.
A prominent feature of the programme will be an annual benchmark survey which will reveal how much companies are spending on recycled products and materials. The NRF says that in the USA such a survey has proved a powerful motivator, with firms vying to gain publicity from it. The first survey will be made next March.
Around that time, the NRF will be publishing its first Recycled Products Guide. This will show the recycled content, sources of materials and contact details for each item.
Further features of the programme will include the dissemination of case studies, a newsletter, regional seminars and other joint public and private sector initiatives. Local authorities have apparently expressed strong support for the programme and interest in promoting local Buy Recycled awareness campaigns.
At least 15 councils and London boroughs have signed up to the scheme. Other members include Safeway Stores, British Airways, B&Q, Nestle, British Steel, CMB Sonoco Composites, Smith & Nephew Europe, Perchards, the Industry Council for Electronic Equipment Recycling, Davidsons Waste Paper, Linpac Plastics and Packaging Recycling Services.