Criteria for products

Embedding circularity in the criteria for products (e.g. furniture, clothing, IT equipment)

Whether it is second-hand furniture, uniforms that are designed for disassembly and recycling, or refurbished IT equipment, there are lots of opportunities to procure circular products. Your city government can procure products that are designed to be used for longer and can be repaired, remanufactured, or refurbished. Additionally, you can ensure safe chemical and material choices that are compatible with the circular economy, enabling the regeneration of natural systems and recirculation of materials free of hazardous substances.

Rather than procuring a product, your city government can procure the ‘use’ of a product. This can incentivise the adoption of circular business models and extend the lifespan of products and materials through reuse, pay-per-use, take-back, and leasing schemes. This can result in operational cost savings for your city government, a reduction in waste, and further development of the market for products that are designed for performance, repair, refurbishment, upgrades, and material recapture.

Questions to consider:

  • Can you purchase items that are designed to be used more? + Can you reuse or repurpose the items that you already have? + Can you choose products that are designed, created, and manufactured to be durable, repaired, or refurbished? + Can you ensure that all procured items will be used? + Can you procure through services that increase utilisation (e.g. non-ownership models, supplier can provide repair, reuse, rental, recommerce,* and remanufacturing options)?

  • Can you purchase items that are made to be made again? + Where technically possible, can you purchase items that are designed for disassembly or made from post-industrial or post-consumer recycled content? + Is there a system in place to collect and return these items for reuse, repurpose, refurbishment, remanufacturing, or recycling to prevent waste? + Can your vendors reduce the amount of packaging used? Can they use packaging made from reusable, recycled, or recyclable materials?

  • Can you purchase items that are made from safe and renewable inputs? + Can you procure products that are free from hazardous chemicals, supported by a relevant certification? + Can you avoid products and materials sourced from finite, non-renewable resources? + If purchasing items (partially) made from virgin inputs, can these be sourced from renewable feedstocks, or from regenerative** sources?


1) The former offices of ReLondon applied circular economy principles to the fit-out requirements ranging from office furniture to carpets and paint.

2) In an effort to reduce the amount of discarded carpets being sent to landfill, San Francisco’s city government adopted a new regulation requiring that all future publicly procured carpet fits are cradle-to-cradle silver certified, with no polyurethane used, and with 45% recycled content. This new requirement applies to carpets installed in municipal buildings and construction projects. An online platform, available to city departments, shows a list of suppliers of compliant products.

3) In Ghent, the local government procured cradle-to-cradle bronze certified cleaning, hygiene, and polishing products for all of its buildings and facilities, and packaging was made to be recyclable and contained recycled materials.

4) The Municipality of Herning aimed to expand the lifespan of uniforms procured for their operations department. With the TEKO Design School, it explored opportunities to increase the reuse and recycling of working clothes. The Municipality developed detailed guidance on the criteria for the reuse, repair and disposal of working clothes. Circular principles were introduced to the contractor from whom the clothes were leased through a service-based model. It was estimated that savings of EUR 6,700 and 1,011 tonnes of CO₂ were achieved over a four-year period in Herning’s technical operations department.

5) The City of Zurich is among several cities to lease printing equipment rather than buying it outright, thus only paying per page printed and incentivising better printer performance and energy use.


  • The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s factsheet on products identifies opportunities for cities to embed circular principles in urban products systems.

  • The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Jeans Redesign created a vision for the fashion industry to redesign the way clothes are made and used. This vision will require industry and government to work together. The Jeans Redesign guideline sets out the specific requirements to design circular denim.

  • The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute has established global standards for safe, circular, and responsibly made products.

* Recommerce or reverse commerce is the selling of previously owned, new or used products, mainly electronic devices or media such as books, through physical or online distribution channels to buyers who repair, if necessary, then reuse, recycle or resell them.

** Regenerative production: refers to growing food in ways that generate positive outcomes for nature, which include but are not limited to: healthy and stable soils, improved local biodiversity, improved air and water quality. Farmers may draw from many different schools of thought such as regenerative agriculture, agroecology, agroforestry, and conservation agriculture to apply the best set of practices to drive regenerative outcomes on their land.

Last updated