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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Biobased Products Program
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Return to BA Closing the Circle Awards


Submitted by: David A. Prevar, Area Safety and Health Manager

Soy Bus BARC received a Closing the Circle Award for its use of biobased products from the White House Task Force on Waste Prevention and Recycling. The award ceremony will be held on June 10, 2003 in the White House Presidential Hall of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, when 26 Federal military and civilian award winners (individuals and teams) in several categories of environmental stewardship will be recognized. This is the third straight year that BARC has received a Closing the Circle Award. Two years ago, the award was for biodiesel fuel leadership, and last year it was for the Environmental Management System, which created an alliance between the ongoing research and the management of day-to-day operations. The Closing the Circle Awards program is administered by the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive, whose mission is to promote sustainable environmental stewardship throughout the Federal Government.

The Biobased Products Program is integral with BARC's Affirmative Procurement Program. The authority for these programs is promulgated in BA Policy #03-04, Environmentally Preferable Products and Affirmative Procurement. The following is a summary of what BA has been doing in environmentally preferable purchasing and biobased products use. BARC has long practiced pollution prevention, and years ago incorporated waste prevention and recycling in its daily operations. We have also been increasing use of Environmentally Preferable Products, especially biobased products. Environmentally preferable products are chosen after considering price and performance, pollution prevention, life cycle environmental attributes, comparison of environmental impacts, and evaluation of the actual performance of the products.

First, a summary on biodiesel. Since August 1, 1999, BARC has been a leader in the use of biodiesel fuel and biobased products. On that date, BARC received its first delivery of biodiesel fuel. The storage tanks were filled with 80% diesel and then splashed-blended with 20% biodiesel to make a B-20 blend. At that moment BARC began using biodiesel in approximately 150 vehicles and equipment. In October 2000, BARC expanded the use of biodiesel to its heating plants. In lieu of Number 2 heating oil, BARC began and continues to use biodiesel. At the same time BARC implemented a policy that all back-up generators would be fueled with biodiesel. It is noted that during a major emergency (F-4 tornado) the generators operated without any disruptions.

BARC expanded its leadership position by holding seminars for Federal, State and local officials on the benefits of biodiesel. This resulted in many public agencies switching to the use of biodiesel in all their vehicles and equipment. BARC staff also conducted workshops at Federal Fleet Conferences and Clean Air Conferences. This again resulted in more agencies using biodiesel. Staff also spoke at environmentally sponsored functions where Congressional staff were invited and did radio interviews on the benefits of biodiesel and biobased products. BARC also had the ARS National Visitor Center bus wrapped in a decal that promotes the fact that the bus is soybean powered and running on biodiesel fuel. This bus has been used in Washington, D.C. for special events, at Clean Air Conferences and other functions where vast numbers of the general public can see the wrap and learn about biodiesel.

At the same time BARC began working closely with the Department of Defense, Defense Energy Supply Center (DESC) to purchase biodiesel pre-blended and in large quantities so that the cost would be reduced and it would be easy for Defense and Civilian Agencies to purchase the fuel. This would be a means to increase the use of the product. In July 2002, DESC awarded a contract in excess of $1M and began purchasing biodiesel.

The Utilities Services Section uses biodegradable cleaning products; citrus-based industrial degreaser, hand soap, and hand-scrubber cleaner; and CFC-free electrical cleaner. In addition, the boiler water treatment is food-service quality.

Within the Operations and Maintenance Section, which includes carpentry, paint, pipe & metal, and refrigeration shops, the hand cleaners, metal and parts cleaners, and condenser and evaporator coil cleaners are all biobased. An environmentally safe antifreeze, REM-1, is used in all chillers. Other products used include latex paints with low odor and low volatility; water-based wood finishes; solvent-free adhesive for vinyl tiles; and flourescent tubes that are both longer-life and less hazardous for disposal. Chlorine-free HFC refrigerant is purchased on a regular basis and utilized in lieu of products that are harmful to the environment and contribute to ozone depletion.

The Farm Operations Branch uses biobased 2-cycle oil, gear lubricant, hydraulic fluid for tractors, lithium grease for high-pressure applications, anti-wear hydraulic oil, chainsaw bar & chain lubricant, and oil cutter. They are currently phasing in the use of biobased products for penetrating fluid, power steering fluid, and engine oil.

On occasion, spills of petroleum products occur, despite our spill prevention plans. When this happens, spill kits that are made of environmentally friendly products are used for cleanup. If a larger spill occurs, environmentally friendly containment and absorbent materials are used. One of the absorbent products used is derived from recycled corn cobs. After use on a spill, the cleanup material is picked up by a recycling plant for use as a higher BTU fuel instead of being disposed of as hazardous waste. This is a prime example of how products are chosen for life cycle environmental attributes.

Even the Radiation Safety Unit uses a biobased product, for surface contamination cleanups. This underscores how environmental preferability is part of the culture at BARC.

The combined participation of BARC's maintenance shops, utilities services, and farm operations in selecting environmentally preferable products results in using greater than 250 gallons and 200 pounds per year of green products.

Environmentally preferable services are similarly evaluated before implementation. The hazardous waste contract specifies recycling chemicals instead of treatment or disposal whenever possible. In the past year, this amounted to greater than 2,875 pounds. The paper recycling program was expanded by modifying the housekeeping contract to include pickup of mixed paper, including the ubiquitous catalogs the large research center receives, and providing larger wheeled recycling containers to encourage liberal use. Additional vendors have been found to expand recycling in other areas. The Utilities Service Section recycles any oil-based product it has to use. The Carpentry Shop recycles sawdust and wood scraps. All used oil is picked up at no cost to the government. The vendor then takes the product and recycles it for reuse.

Included in the specifications for a new janitorial contract was the requirement to use environmentally preferable products. Currently used are biobased/biodegradable cleaners for various surfaces, disinfectants, carpet spotters, and handsoap. The hand towels and bathroom tissue are of recycled content.

Slate roof replacements and roofs in new construction are being done with recycled-content roofing tiles that have the appearance of slate, meet historical preservation standards, and are less expensive than slate. This became policy after replacing roofs on four buildings after the tornado in 2001. We have also been specifying carpet with soybean-based backing.

We have eliminated the use of ozone-depleting fire suppression systems, fire extinguishers, and refrigerants at BARC.

Several processes have been implemented that are significantly less expensive, or of greater benefit to the environment. In the Utilities Services Section, the amount of chemicals at the two wastewater treatment plants is minimized through tight monitoring and use of flow-paced feed metering. The wastewater treatment plants utilize biological treatment processes, called Biological Nutrient Removal, minimizing chemicals; and timers are used to lower costs of running equipment. A plan was developed and implemented to repair leaks in the condensate returns to the boilers. This significantly reduced water/effluent consumption in the boiler plants, especially during the heating season. Also, this reduced the amount of chemicals needed to treat the water because the condensate water was previously treated, thereby reducing the purchase of treatment chemicals. Whenever possible, chemical containers are recycled or reused.

Scientists use aqueous-based scintillation fluid (used for counting isotope activity) to the greatest extent practical, replacing volatile solvent-based fluid.

The composting facility processes 10,000 cubic yards of organic waste per year, producing 5,000 cubic yards of compost.

Outreach to the larger population about environmentally preferable products is a priority at BARC. During the last 12 months, staff gave a presentation at a Congressional program on the benefits of biodiesel fuel; spoke to public officials in Breckenridge, Colorado on biodiesel fuel; and participated in a 50-minute radio interview on biodiesel and environmentally friendly products on a public radio broadcast. In addition, each year BARC holds a Public Field Day in June. In 2002, approximately 7,000 people attended the event. Visitors learn about the research being conducted, see an exhibit on biodiesel, see the biodiesel Visitor Center Bus in action, and go on a hay ride pulled by a tractor operating on biodiesel.

Online Affirmative Procurement Program training was developed to assure that all BA government purchase card users will be aware of and participate in the Program. Cardholders will soon receive instructions for taking the course. Names of employees completing the training will be monitored within the Safety, Occupational Health and Environmental Staff to assure that everyone is "on board." A manual detailing the program to serve as a reference for decisionmakers, such as procurement and contracting officials, has been developed. To minimize use of paper, it will be distributed electronically.

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Last Modified: 8/13/2016
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