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Projects Database

Pbt-Free Purchasing In The Great Lakes States

Project Information

Award Amount:$33,541.00
Dollars Leveraged:$0.00
Start-End Dates:9/15/00-9/14/02
Description:Summary: The purpose of INFORM’s project, PBT-free Purchasing in the Great Lakes States, is to help government agencies and public institutions in the Great Lakes region minimize the purchase of products that contain (or generate) mercury, lead, dioxin or other persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemicals.

Research conducted by INFORM for its "Toxic Watch 1995" report demonstrated that in many cases, toxic chemicals contained in consumer products have played a much more significant role in environmental contamination and human health damage than those found in the waste streams of manufacturing facilities. Inform released a report on the industrial use of bioaccumulative toxins which documents that more than 90% of these chemicals are leaving factories in products, not in waste. PBTs, a more narrow group of bioaccumulative toxins, are found in a wide range of consumer and industrial products including paints (used on boats, bridges, roads and automobiles), pesticides, chlorinated solvents, inks, dyes, solder, etc. Toxic chemicals in consumer products can present risks both when products are used and after they are discarded into landfills and incinerators.

While many states, localities and federal agencies have altered their purchasing practices to favor products that are recycled or energy efficient, far fewer have looked extensively for ways to reduce the toxicity of the goods and services they procure. Government procurement has the potential to be a major catalyst for innovative technologies because the public sector has substantial purchasing power.

Environmental Results/Products:
One of the primary goals of INFORM’s PBT-free Purchasing Project was to catalyze businesses to manufacture and distribute safer alternatives to PBT-containing products. Perhaps the greatest impact has been the stimulation of PBT-free product redesign in the auto industry. At INFORM’s suggestion, Minnesota’s 2002 vehicle bid put vendors on notice that vehicles purchased, used, and sold by the state will be completely mercury-free within three years. In response to this bid (and in concert with efforts by other environmentalists), General Motors (GM) announced that all mercury convenience lighting switches would be discontinued by January 15, 2002, nearly a year ahead of its previous schedule.

It has been estimated that this decision resulted in the elimination of mercury switches in 97,0001 vehicles, preventing the use of about 200 pounds of mercury. Moreover, Erie County, New York’s elimination of para-dichlorobenzene urinal blocks prevented about 200 pounds of para-blocks from going into the sewer system.

As a result of this grant, more than a dozen state and local governments in the Great Lakes region are now evaluating a broad range of products for PBTs and specifying safer alternatives. This has not only resulted in environmental benefits at the facilities that are now using less-toxic products, but it has also put industry on notice that this will be a driver for change. With EP’s support, it has been demonstrated that government purchasing can effectively spur pollution prevention and corporate innovation.

INFORM has produced numerous fact sheets that provide answers to frequently asked questions, lists of product vendors, price and performance comparisons, model specification language, and procurement success stories by other governments:

• Mercury-free vehicles (
• Mercury-free medical equipment (
• Safer alternatives to para-dichlorobenzene restroom deodorizers (
• Mercury-free products and alternatives (
• Commonly (and some uncommonly) found PBT-containing products used by specific types of agencies and/or institutions.
• Environmentally preferable janitorial cleaning chemicals


Funding Organizations

Below is a list of organizations with individual contacts that are funding this project.

U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office - Primary Contact

77 W Jackson Blvd
Chicago, Illinois 60604
There are no individuals in this organization
associated with this project.

Organizations Receiving Funding

Below is a list of organizations with individual contacts that are receiving funding for this project.

INFORM - Primary Contact

120 Wall Street
New York, New York 10005
p: 212-361-2400
Individual Contacts

Associated Organizations

Below is a list of associated organizations that are NOT giving or receiving funding for this project.

Alliance for Sustainability - Partner

University of Minnesota, Hillel Center
1521 University Ave. SE
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55414
p: 612-331-1099
f: 612-379-1527

Center for a New American Dream - Partner

6930 Carroll Avenue
Suite 900
Takoma Park, Maryland 20912
p: 301-891-3683

Erie County Environmental Management Council - Partner

Edward A. Rath County Office Building
95 Franklin Street, 10th Floor
Buffalo, New York 14202
p: (716) 858-8390

Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR) - Partner

1010 Jorie Boulevard
Suite 12
Oak Brook, Illinois 60523
p: 630-472-5019
f: 630-472-5023

Great Lakes United - Partner

Buffalo State College, Cassetty Hall
1300 Elmwood Ave.
Buffalo, New York 14222
p: (716) 886-0142
f: (716) 886-0303

Health Care Without Harm Coalition - Partner

1755 S Street, NW
Suite 6 B
Washington, District of Columbia 20009
p: 202-234-0091
f: 202-234-9121

Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (H2E) - Partner

PO Box 53315
Washington, District of Columbia 20009
p: 800-727-4179
f: 866-379-8705

International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives - Partner

City Hall, West Tower, 16th Floor
100 Queen St. West
Toronto, Oregon M5H 2N2
p: 416/392-1462
f: 416/392-1478

National Association of Educational Procurement - Partner

5523 Research Park Drive, Suite 340
Baltimore, Maryland 21228
p: 443-543-5540
f: 443-543-5550

National Wildlife Federation - Partner

Great Lakes Natural Resource Center
506 E. Liberty, 2nd Floor
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104-2210
p: 313-769-3351
f: 313-769-1449


Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR)
One East Hazelwood Drive Champaign, IL 61820
(217) 333-8940

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