N.C. Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance

Environmentally Preferable Purchasing

EPP Glossary of Terms


All terms were excerpted from the EPA’s Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Glossary of Terms.

Acquisition - acquiring products and services (including construction) by contract with appropriated funds by and for the use of the federal government through purchase or lease, whether the supplies or services are already in existence or must be created, developed, demonstrated and evaluated. Acquisition begins at the point when agency needs are established and includes the description of requirements to meet those needs, solicitation and selection of sources, award of contracts, contract financing, contract performance, contract administration and those technical and management functions directly related to the process of fulfilling agency needs by contract.

Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) - alternative fuel vehicles are powered by fuels that reduce the air pollution, solid waste and hazardous waste that result from their use, service and maintenance. The term “alternative fuel vehicles” is used to refer to various types of vehicles, including compressed natural gas, biodiesel, ethanol, electric and hybrid electric, propane, liquefied natural gas, and hydrogen fuel cell.

Biobased products - commercial or industrial products (other than food or feed) that utilize biological products or renewable, domestic, agricultural (e.g., plant, animal and marine), or forestry materials.

Biodegradable - capable of decomposing under natural conditions.

Compostable - capability of organic material to biologically decompose into humus-like material.

Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG) - Through the Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG), EPA designates items that must contain recycled content when purchased by federal, state and local agencies, or by government contractors using appropriated federal funds. CPG is authorized under RCRA and updated every two years.

Disassembly potential - the ease with which a product can be disassembled for maintenance, replacement or recycling.

Durability - refers to the expected lifetime of the product.

Ecosystem impacts - adverse impacts on the ecosystem; for example, endangered species, wetlands loss, fragile ecosystems, erosion.

Energy consumption - the total amount of energy consumed for product or service manufacture, use and disposal. Different sources of energy are associated with different environmental impacts.

Energy efficiency - refers to products that meet or exceed the Department of Energy (DOE)/Federal Energy Management Program’s product energy efficiency recommendations which identify the top 25 percent of energy efficiency for all similar products, or that meet the energy efficiency criteria of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)/DOE Energy Star program.

Energy Star - a voluntary partnership among the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, product manufacturers, local utilities and retailers. Partners help promote efficient products by labeling with the Energy Star® logo and educating consumers about the benefits of energy efficiency.

Environmental attributes - environmental characteristics of a product or service, such as energy or water efficiency, low-toxicity, biobased and recycled content.

Environmentally preferable - products or services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose. The product or service comparison may consider raw materials acquisition, production, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, operation, maintenance or disposal.

Extended Product Responsibility - a product systems approach to environmental protection that considers product chain and life cycle environmental impacts.

Integrated Pest Management - the coordinated use of pest information, environmental information and available pest control methods to prevent unacceptable levels of pest damage by the most economical means and with the least possible hazard to people, property and the environment.

Life cycle assessment - the comprehensive examination of a product’s environmental and economic aspects and potential impacts throughout its lifetime, including raw material extraction, transportation, manufacturing, use and disposal. The International Standards Organization, through ISO 14040, has defined life cycle assessment slightly differently as follows: compilation and evaluation of the inputs, outputs and the potential environmental impacts of a product system throughout its life cycle.

Life cycle cost - the amortized annual cost of a product, including capital costs, installation costs, operating costs, maintenance costs and disposal costs discounted over the lifetime of the product. However, this definition does not include external costs (i.e., those not borne directly by the entity that owns and operates a product/service, such as environmental costs to society at large). For the purposes of this guidance, EPA encourages agencies to consider all internal and external costs associated with a product, process or activity throughout its entire life cycle—from raw materials acquisition to manufacture, recycling and final disposal.

Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) - Refers to a document containing a number of product listings for which several vendors are available for a particular product. Purchasers obtain information from the vendors and determine from which vendor they want to buy.

Non-renewable resource consumption - those resources consumed that are not renewable in 200 years (e.g., fossil fuels, minerals). This can serve as an indicator of acid rain, climate change potential, air pollution and associated human health risks and risks to endangered species and fragile ecosystems.

Pollution prevention - “source reduction,” as defined under the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. § 13102), and other practices that reduce or eliminate the creation of pollutants through: increased efficiency in the use of raw materials, energy, water or other resources; or protection of natural resources by conservation.  The Pollution Prevention Act defines source reduction to mean any practice that: (1) Reduces the amount of any hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant entering any waste stream or otherwise released into the environment (including fugitive emissions) prior to recycling, treatment or disposal, and (2) Reduces the hazards to public health and the environment associated with the release of such substances, pollutants or contaminants.  The term includes: equipment or technology modifications, process or procedure modifications, reformulation or redesign of products, substitution of raw materials, and improvements in housekeeping, maintenance, training or inventory control.

Post-consumer material - refers to a material or finished product that has served its intended use and has been discarded for disposal or recovery, having completed its life as a consumer item. “Post-consumer material” is part of the broader category of “recovered material.”

Post-industrial materials - recovered industrial and manufacturing materials that are diverted from municipal solid waste for the purpose of collection, recycling and disposition. Post-industrial materials are part of the broader category of “recovered materials.”

Pre-consumer materials - materials generated in manufacturing and processes such as manufacturing scrap and trimmings and cuttings. Includes print overruns, over-issue publications, and obsolete inventories.

Product disassembly potential - the ease with which a product can be disassembled for maintenance, parts replacement or recycling.

Reconditioned/Remanufactured - the process of restoring used, durable products to meet original performance standards. Remanufacturing has many other names, including: rebuilding (automotive sector), retreading (tire remanufacturing), reconditioning and refurbishing. Remanufacturing results in less waste and reduced raw material and energy use.

Recovered materials - waste materials and byproducts that have been recovered or diverted from solid waste; does not include those materials and byproducts generated from, and commonly reused within, an original manufacturing process.

Recycled content - materials that have been recovered from the solid waste stream, either during the manufacturing process (pre-consumer), or after consumer use (post-consumer). Purchasers may want to consider whether the material contains pre-consumer or post-consumer recycled content.

Recyclability - refers to products or materials that can be collected, separated or otherwise recovered from the solid waste stream for reuse, or used in the manufacture or assembly of another package or product, through an established recycling program. For products that are made of both recyclable and nonrecyclable components, the recyclable claim should be adequately qualified to avoid consumer deception about which portions or components are recyclable. In addition, unless recycling collection programs for the product are available to a substantial majority of communities or consumers where the product is sold, claims of recyclability need to be qualified to indicate the limited availability of recycling collection sites. A product that is made from recyclable material, but, due to its shape, size or some other attribute, is not accepted in recycling programs for such material, should not be marketed as recyclable.

Renewable resource consumption - a continuum of resources, from those that are renewable in under 200 years, such as timber-based products, which can serve as an indicator of biodiversity loss and increased erosion, to those which are renewable in less than two years, such as grain-based feed stocks.

Reusability - how many times a product may be reused. Since reusable products generally require more upfront costs than disposable products, they are often subjected to a cost/benefit analysis in order to determine the life cycle cost.

Take-back - refers to the manufacturer or designee accepting a return of end-of-life product; who pays for the transportation of the product may be situation-specific.

Waste prevention - also known as source reduction, refers to any change in the design, manufacturing, purchase or use of materials or products (including packaging) to reduce their amount or toxicity before they become municipal solid waste. Waste prevention also refers to the reuse of products or materials.

Waste reduction - preventing or decreasing the amount of waste being generated through waste prevention, recycling or purchasing recycled and environmentally preferable products.

Water consumption - refers to the water resources that are consumed or used, which can serve as an indicator of water quality impacts, risks to aquatic ecosystems, and degradation of drinking water resources.

Water pollutants - generally, any substance introduced into water that adversely affects the usefulness of water as a resource or the health of humans, animals or ecosystems.

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