Responsible Purchasing Network

Copy Paper: Specifications


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Review the responsible specifications for copy paper below and see the Products section for samples of supplier tracking forms, a hierarchy of environmentally preferable papers, and a paper scorecard.

Minimum specifications for copy paper should include:

  • Maximized PCW recycled content, with a minimum of 30% for all papers
  • Chlorine-free certification
  • Chain of custody certification for virgin content to ensure paper comes from well managed forests
  • Require vendors to also offer tree-free alternatives (such as kenaf or hemp)

Stronger specifications include:

  • 100% certified PCW recycled content paper
  • Preference for PCW recycled-content and recyclable wrappers
  • Minimum 30% PCW for cartons and corrugated packaging materials
  • Verification of vendor’s use of green power

Model Specifications

Responsible Purchasing Network and Environmental Paper Network, Model Environmental Specifications, 2007
Developed by the Environmental Paper Network in partnership with the Responsible Purchasing Network, this spec provides contract language for recycled content, responsibly-sourced fiber, cleaner production practices, recyclability, and promotion.

Markets Initiative, Ancient Forest Friendly Uncoated Paper Specifications, 2005
Gives preference to papers from sources guaranteed to be free of fiber harvested in a manner that threatens endangered forests. Also recommends maximum recycled ”FSC Pure” certification for virgin fiber and chlorine-free fibers. Other recommendations include maximizing PCW content and using non-wood agricultural residues.


Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Recycled Paper and Envelopes RFR, 2005
The state requires:

  • that all paper products contain at least 30% PCW content, are recyclable in municipal programs, and are packaged in a minimum 35% PCW content carton;
  • that contractors offer 50%, or 100% PCW as well as a tree-free alternative.

Chlorine-free Products Association and/or Forest Stewardship Council or Sustainable Forestry Initiative certifications are encouraged. Contractors are encouraged to reduce environmental impact by offering more preferable products, using alternative fuel vehicles for deliveries, and/or reducing packaging. All vendors on the Massachusetts contract for office equipment (copiers, printers, fax machines, etc.) must agree that the recycled content paper specified on the paper contract will not be faulted for jams in the machines or other equipment problems.

State of Vermont, Paper Contract, n.d.
Three paper purchases are on this contract with two of them requiring processed chlorine-free 100% PCW content. The third calls for 80% PCW content and processed chlorine-free paper.

State of California, State Agency Buy Recycled Campaign, n.d.
Requires that every state agency, per Public Contract Code 12209(b)

  • Receive supplier verification of the postconsumer recycled-content of their products.
  • Purchase paper with minimum 30% post-consumer content.
  • Attain recycled-content product (RCP) procurement mandates.
  • Submit an annual report on dollars spent on all products in mandated categories.


King County, Recycled Copy Paper Specs, n.d.
Seeks seven contracts, the first 6 specify a minimum 30% PCW, the last specifies processed chlorine-free 100% PCW; all 7 prohibit paper that would jam printers or other office equipment.


City of Portland, RFQ – Paper, 2006
Minimum 30% PCW and at least elemental chlorine-free processing. The city asks supplier to identify certifications including FSC, PCF, Green Seal, or EcoLogo (formerly known as Environmental Choice). Also, supplier must identify the percentage of renewable energy used in production.


Creative Commons License This work by the Responsible Purchasing Network is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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