Circular procurement is about making agreements to ensure that the products that you procure for your organization are produced in accordance with the principles of the circular economy and will be further processed after use. 

Circular public procurement is an approach to greening procurement which recognizes the role that public authorities can play in supporting the transition towards a circular economy.  

The main goals for circular procurement are to:

  • Reduce the total amount of materials and non-renewable virgin input
  • Extend the use/lifetime of products
  • Stimulate the potential reuse of products and components
  • Raise potential of recycling products and materials  

Green public procurement

The European Commission defines Green Public Procurement (GPP) as “…a process whereby public authorities seek to procure goods, services and works with a reduced environmental impact throughout their life cycle when compared to goods, services and works with the same primary function that would otherwise be procured. 

How can GPP help?  

  • shift to zero-emission vehicles and encourage suppliers to do the same 
  • require high energy efficiency standards for buildings and products, green electricity 
  • require cleaning services to be carried out with eco-label compliant products 

 

In general, procurement practitioners are not environmental experts, and environmental experts do not have the necessary understanding of the procurement process and its regulations. Useful tools for bridging this competency gap are the so-called environmental labels (eco-label).  

What is an eco-label?

An Eco-label is a label that identifies the overall environmental reference of a product or service based on life-cycle considerations.

Eco-labels are the answer to procurement professionals to be better informed about the impact on the environment and health of the products they buy. They facilitate the inclusion of green criteria in public tenders and offer a guarantee of impartiality, reliability, and scientific accuracy

Practical examples of circular purchases

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In the construction of buildings, circular elements of the procurement include material choices, the reuse, and recycling of materials, the efficient use of room space, and the planning of multi-purpose buildings. 

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In textile procurement, fabrics made of recycled materials already exist in the market, which has already been utilized in public procurement. Circular criteria that have been found in textile procurement include durability, easy-care and reparability, and free from harmful substances. 

A good example of a circular purchase is the Dutch Ministry of Defence procurement of towels and overalls in 2017. The Ministry required that goods contained at least 10% of recycled post-consumer textile fibres, which resulted in savings of:

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15.252 kg of cotton  

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68.880 kg of CO2 emmision

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233 million litres of water

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23.520 MJ of energy

 This is just savings of a single circular procurement, imagine the  savings if the Green Procurement becomes a standard to follow. 

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In the field of furniture, there is an opportunity to require circular criteria or develop concepts and services that are based on a life cycle approach. These include planning, maintenance and repair, modification, recycling etc.

Every purchase is an opportunity to drive markets towards innovation and sustainability!

In order to achieve these goals, what should be taken into consideration by national policy-makers?

1. National Circular Economy (CE) strategies should have a clear link to the concept of circular public procurement (CPP) including a definition and objectives for CPP

2. The level of commitment to CPP, SPP (Sustainable Public Procurement), or GPP (Green Public Procurement) should increase

3. Local authorities of the procurement of circular products and solutions should be encouraged. For example, municipalities play an important role in implementing circular economy activities, as they can promote the use of circular criteria.

4. Specific CPP criteria should be clearly included in the EU GPP set of criteria. Higher expectations could be established towards procurement that plans on reusing products or their elements, eliminating toxic materials, and using energy from renewable sources for production

5. Market dialogue and networking between different actors and procurers should be strengthened in order to develop innovations and circular solutions on the market

 The European Commission will propose further legislation and guidance on green public purchasing and ensure public authority’s procurement is green.

For more information related to this topic please watch the webinar recording below. 

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