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Promoting the Circular Economy through Public Procurement
As stated in the European Commission's Communication Closing the loop - An EU action plan for the Circular Economy (Com (2015) 614), "The transition to a more circular economy […] is an essential contribution to the EU's efforts to develop a sustainable, low carbon, resource efficient and competitive economy.". To achieve this transition, changes are required in both the productive system and consumption patterns of all actors of society including public organisations. Public procurement, as the expression of the public sector as a consumer, is a key instrument to achieve these new and more sustainable production and consumption models due to its pulling effect on the market, especially in certain sectors.
In general, four strategies can be implemented to promote circularity through public procurement, based on their degree of innovation and complexity. They range from the acquisition of existing "circular" solutions, the purchase of new "circular" product and services, contracting new "circular" service models to the promotion of "circular ecosystems". In each of those strategies all or some of the aspects of a circular economy can be promoted (the promotion of durability, resource efficiency, reusability and reparability, recycling and recycled content). The relevance of one or the other will depend on the specific characteristics of the needs to cover with the procurement, the market capacity to offer existing solutions or develop new ones and the regional context of each administration.
Based on existing literature and case studies, this paper will present in detail each of the different strategies and aspects to be promoted - illustrated with real examples - with the objective to: 1) show the range of initiatives that can be included in "circular procurement", i.e. in a procurement that promotes a circular economy; and 2) to encourage the rethinking of procurement in order to find, in collaboration with other entities and the private sector, better solutions to real needs that make a more efficient use of resources and minimise waste generation. The paper will also present key lessons to achieve good results and a positive impact extracted from real "circular procurement" experiences conducted to date.