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Green Public Procurement, an Eastern European Perspective

Commissioner Potocnik in a short talk over GPP with Raul Cazan, 2Celsius / Comunitate Durabila

The world’s second largest building after the Pentagon hosts the Romanian Parliament. This latter institution, in its public acquisitions, consumes as a concrete monster, a titan inherited from the Tartar of communist times.

The structure’s consumption equals that of a town of 25,000 inhabitants, which led the charge to find solutions for energy efficiency. The administrators have replaced one third of the over 100,000 light bulbs with some economic ones and rehabilitated the heating system. Architect Anca Petrescu, author of the “House of the Republic” project, said the building has as many sins as people can pronounce, and the palace looks today as any disregarded house, inhabited by some ignorant householder.

In the absence of an energy audit, which no company has dared to carry out in such a huge building, no one knows exactly what would be the way forward and what sort of investment is needed for energy efficiency in the House of the People.*

In addition, we wanted to check the paper consumption of the Romanian MPs, in their daily work within Ceausescu’s palace. And we are going to express that paper consumption in… trees.

Paper consumption in the Romanian Parliament

According to a study carried out by the Centre for sustainable Policies “Ecopolis” and 2Celsius, in total, the Chamber of Deputies, that is the inferior chamber of the Parliament, in 2013 consumed an amount of 69.95 tons of print paper.

In the same year, it was delivered for recycling a quantity of 18,267 kg paper.

Assuming that all paper sent to recycling was print paper (A3 and A4 sheet) there is thus an off-set of 18.26 tons of paper.

Tom Soder, a researcher in pulp and paper technology from the University of Maine estimated in a series of reports how many trees come into production of one ton of virgin paper (Claudia Thompson, in HER book Recycled Papers: The Essential Guide, Cambridge, MA : MIT Press, 1992). He calculated that, based on a mixture of softwood and hardwood, within 12 meters height and diameter between 15 and 20 centimeters, obtained a weighted average of 24 trees needed to produce a ton of paper printed or written after the chemical process used to obtain pulp classic – “kraft chemical (freesheet)”.

For a ton of low quality paper, old newsprint from pulp obtained by mechanical process halves the number of trees needed – Soder led somewhere approximating 12 trees in a ton of paper.

In short:

For every ton of virgin paper produced we must cut 24 trees. If instead of new paper (and treated with chlorine) would use recycled paper would save a ton of wooden mass, that is at least 17 trees. Also, recycling paper requires 40% less energy and 50% less water than producing paper from virgin material.

Total trees absolutely necessary to use paper of the Chamber of Deputies is therefore:

(24 trees) X (virgin paper 70t) = 1680 trees

However, deputies recycled 18.26 tons of paper. This means in accordance with the above theory offset:

18,26t X 17 trees = 310.42

The natural number, offset paper recycling MPs would be due around

310 trees saved

The total impact on the environment from the use of paper to print the Chamber of Deputies will be the difference between absolute consumption and offset:

1680-310 = 1370

Therefore, the Chamber of Deputies “cut” 1,370 trees for print paper needs in 2013.

If MPs had purchased only recycled paper according to criteria based on green public procurement in the field of writing paper products and print compiled by the Directorate General Environment of the European Commission, they would have saved

936 trees from being cut.

Cumparam verde from Centrul pentru Politici Durabile on Vimeo.

A Romania-wide research and advocacy

This research is part of an all encompassing project that tackles green public procurement in Romania. Whilst in North-Western European countries, there is a bottom-up approach, meaning that local public administrations construct their own GPP policies and thus, as good practices, they are being disseminated along the whole nation, Eastern European EU Member States require a legal framework, a norm-driven imperative. This is largely due to the fact that local communities are either too poor or too dependent on centralized government decisions.

Amongst the objectives of the project there were the introduction in Parliament of a bill requiring that at least 5% of all public procurement in Romania needs to meet green procurement standards; determination of minimum 10 public institutions at central and local level (e.g. the Parliament, Ministry of Environment or municipality, regional agencies etc.) in Romania to adopt voluntary green procurement standards; increased capacity for advocacy partners – at least seven non-governmental organizations at the local level – aiming at engaging in a campaign to promote a green procurement law and standards in public institutions.


*Dolores Benezic, Green Report 2010, English translation here.

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