Develop circular criteria

Developing circular criteria and requirements for the tender procedure

Circular criteria aim to challenge the market to provide goods and services that deliver circular economy benefits, such as reducing waste and pollution, expanding the lifespan of products, and regenerating nature. Using the three principles of the circular economy (eliminate, circulate, regenerate) is a good starting point for the development of circular criteria. Your municipality can develop a bank of criteria per product or service category, as well as use third party standards - such as cradle-to-cradle, certified organic, or certifications for recycled content (i.e. ISO 14021, ISO 9001) - to verify the circularity of a product where appropriate.

To support circularity, your city government can plan for the end-of-use phase of products and assets you are procuring when defining the contract. Your city government may consider having arrangements with suppliers for the end of the functional life or contracting period to ensure that products and materials are kept in use or recovered appropriately. Such arrangements can also be procured through services and the use of circular business models, such as lease, buy-resell, or take-back schemes. Your city governments can plan for the end-of-use phase at the product, supplier, and system level.

The development of circular criteria is an ongoing process. The market dialogues you conducted ahead of the tender will help to define what criteria and requirements suppliers can presently realistically respond to. Your city government can, however, raise its level of ambition over time by gradually raising the minimum requirements, as more circular options become available on the market. Providing visibility of how these criteria will evolve over time can encourage potential suppliers to develop more circular solutions, provide businesses with a sense of direction, and give the industry enough time to adapt.

Questions to consider:

  • Can you collaborate with the public procurement department(s), relevant experts, and stakeholders to develop circular criteria for the tender?

  • How can the three principles of the circular economy be applied to this tender? + Can the criteria help to eliminate waste and pollution? + Can the criteria help to keep products and materials in use? + Can the criteria help to regenerate natural systems?

  • Can you procure items that maximise water, energy, material, and resource efficiency?

  • Can you procure products or assets that are designed to be reused, refurbished, repaired, upgraded, retrofitted, or remanufactured?

  • Can you procure through a take-back, buy-resell, or product service system to ensure that the materials are kept in use or recovered appropriately?

  • Can potential suppliers, including SMEs, realistically meet these criteria?

  • Is it possible for suppliers to discuss the criteria if they can see opportunities to improve circularity?

  • Can you use Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), instead of the lowest bid as a price criterion? Can you alter the price-quality ratio to create more favorable conditions for circular solutions?


The 32 municipalities and 2 provinces of the Metropolitan Region of Amsterdam committed in 2018 to applying circular principles for at least 50% of their total procurement by 2025 and reach 100% circular procurement as soon as possible The City of Amsterdam’s “Roadmap Circular Procurement & Commissioning Towards 100%, provides an overview of how the level of ambition will evolve over time and how this will affect tender requirements and criteria.


  • The Circular Procurement Guide provides advice on how to develop criteria for circularity.

  • The European Commission has developed a series of documents to facilitate the inclusion of green requirements in public tender documents. The EU GPP criteria cover several product types such as electronics, furniture, and textiles.

  • ReLondon has a CE Training Academy that includes a bespoke module to help local authorities to understand and embed the circular economy into their procurement activities. ReLondon is also developing an online CE matchmaker directory connecting local authorities, businesses and citizens with circular SMEs, products and services.

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