The federal government recently enacted a law that will likely create an entirely new industry for chemical companies. The Federal Bio-Based Product Preferred Procurement Program (FB4P) requires all federal agencies to give preference to the purchase and use of bio-based products, unless those products are not reasonably available, fail to meet performance standards, or are available only at an unreasonable price.

On Jan. 11, 2005, then U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman announced the publication of a final rule to implement the program, requiring all federal agencies to preferentially purchase bio-based products that have been designated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as eligible under this program. The USDA defines bio-based products as a commercial or industrial product, other than food or feed, which is composed of biological products or renewable domestic agricultural—plant, animal, and marine—or forestry materials.

This means that if the biorenewable products are available and reasonably priced, government agencies are obligated to purchase them.

“It’s a revolutionary program for the government,” says Barbara Lippiat, an economist for The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce in Gaithersburg, MD. “In the past they’ve encouraged the purchase of environmentally friendly products, but it was all voluntary. This rule says they have to buy them or explain why they haven’t, even if the products are up to 10 percent more expensive.”

Every agency reporting to Congress will have to report their bio-based product purchases each year and, under this rule, acquisition requirements will be changed to accommodate bio-based product choices. In order for products to be approved for purchase under FB4P guidelines, they need to be validated as biorenewable and approved under designated categories. USDA is currently working to designate 120 categories, in batches of 10 categories at a time. Lippiat notes that the government won’t confirm which categories are under review but suggests that it is reasonable to conclude that certain cleaning supplies will be among the product groups designated for preferred purchasing.

Spartan Takes the Lead
That’s good news for Spartan Chemical Co., one of the few cleaning supply companies in the country that is actively developing biorenewable products for this category. The forward-thinking chemical company is poised to become a leader in this niche market, and is already well on its way to having its own line of biorenewable cleaning products added to these FB4P lists, notes Bill Schalitz, Vice President of Research and Development for Spartan Chemical Co., Inc. of Maumee, OH, a recognized international leader in the manufacture of chemical specialty and industrial maintenance products since 1956 (

Already a leader in environmentally friendly products with its Green Solutions products and services that are designed to improve air quality, remove toxic chemicals from the environment, and reduce downstream waste, Spartan sees biorenewables as the obvious next step in earth-friendly solutions.

After months of research and development, it launched its line of biorenewable products in January of this year. The product line includes the TriBase Multi-Purpose Cleaner, SoyStrong Waterless Hand Cleaner, Glass Cleaner, Graffiti Remover SAC, and SoyStrong water rinsable industrial degreaser, with more products in development.

“There is a large green movement in the cleaning industry, but we are trying to go to the next level,” Schalitz says. Not satisfied with improving the impact of end-product waste, Spartan’s biorenewable line replaces the raw material petroleum with sustainable, earth-friendly U.S.-made products, such as corn and soybeans, creating a product line that has far less environmental impact throughout its lifecycle. “By using biorenewables we are less dependent on foreign oil, and we support American agriculture,” Schalitz says. “Because the raw materials are readily renewable, we also have unlimited resources to work with.”

Spartan worked with many experts in the field to craft products that guarantee the same quality and value that the petroleum-based products provide. Unlike some biorenewable cleaning products that are exorbitantly priced or ineffective, Spartan’s biorenewables line is virtually identical to petroleum-based alternatives, Schalitz says. “You can’t see, smell or taste the difference, and the cost is about the same.”

Lippiat agrees. NIST performs the Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES) analyses on biorenewable products that are being considered for inclusion in an FB4P category. BEES measures the environmental performance of products by using the internationally-standardized and science-based lifecycle assessment approach specified in ISO 14000 standards. The resulting report compares like biorenewable products based on economic and environmental impact, and determines whether they meet the criteria for use under the program.

Lippiat recently completed a BEES analysis on Spartan’s Biorenewable glass cleaner, and she came back with rave reviews. “Spartan’s product was dramatically better than the alternative biorenewable in its class,” she says. “Usually there are tradeoffs, but not in this case. Spartan’s glass cleaner does extremely well both on environmental measures and economic measures.”