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Issue 01/2016

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Automotive Foam Basics: Public Procurement

Basics The Blauer Engel

Basics The Blauer Engel is highly accepted in Germany Environmentally-friendly procurement in Germany is strongly influenced by the ecolabel Blauer Engel (Blue Angel). The label is highly accepted among public procurers in Germany. The Blauer Engel was explicitly introduced as an environmental policy instrument by the state, which contributed to its credibility. Most product certifications, however, are based on energy saving and energy efficiency. Biobased plastics, can currently not be certified under the Blauer Engel. However, this may change in the near future, as a result of an ongoing study commissioned by the Federal Environment Agency, which is examining this issue. While the “Blauer Engel” is a respected national eco-label, the question is, what are the possibilities for certification available to businesses in the international market? In the EU, biobased plastics can be certified under the Vincotte/biobased certification system. However, this solely applies to the biobased content of a product, not to its sustainability. The Vincotte / compost certificate is not likely to play a role in the field of office supplies. Not many authorities will want to compost their biobased plastic stapler. Blauer Engel Raw materials associations and the different countries of origin complicate the verification process. A step in the right direction would be to establish criteria to determine the sustainability of individual commodities, which could then be granted a corresponding recognized quality label. A certification system of this kind would at least provide insight into the predominant raw material content (e.g. wood). The hurdles to sustainable procurement are particularly high at this point. No conventional product carries such a high burden of proof. Sustainable procurement requires creativity and dialogue Life cycle costs or life cycle assessments are also playing an increasingly important role in the sustainability assessment carried out as part of the process of evaluation and awarding of contracts. However, the difficulty is knowing how to go about a life cycle assessment of a granulate that is based on raw materials derived from different origins. Moreover, such calculations will mean very little in the case of office accessories. Nevertheless, these are questions that need to 36 bioplastics MAGAZINE [01/16] Vol. 11

Basics be raised and addressed by the biobased sector, together with the decision makers in public procurement. What are other possibilities for biobased plastics in public procurement? Procurement law not only defines the what, but also the how of purchasing. One possibility would be to require the use of products or materials designated as biobased or from renewable resources in the specifications. The invitation to tender can state clearly and transparently that this requirement constitutes an award criterion, to which a particular weighting has been assigned. Relating resource security to the award of a procurement contract is slightly more complicated, as resource security is understood to refer not only to the finite supply of fossil fuels, but also to the dependency on imports. This makes establishing an objective connection somewhat more difficult. Security of supply is an important building block for the realization of a biobased economy. The same goes for the widely documented CO 2 savings over the lifetime of a biobased product. Both aspects are difficult to prove, even when using eco-labels as proof for awarding a contract. At this point, general societal responsibility in public procurement will take the form of promoting an open and creative dialogue between producers and public procurers, with a view to achieving an effective breakthrough of biobased products in the market. Nevertheless, this does not excuse the sector from thinking about how a scientifically proven, independent and transparent and possibly globally applicable certification scheme or label could be launched. On the other hand, the tax-financed public sector has a duty to use the opportunities created by procurement law to support societal goals such as energy and resource security or climate protection measures for the benefit of the general public. The Agency for Renewable Resources, with its “Use of biobased products in public procurement” project, is open for a dialogue concerning the procurement of biobased products. The FNR is also involved in Europe-wide projects on biobased products and services in public procurement with the EU projects InnProBio “Forum for Bio-Based Innovation in Public Procurement” and OpenBio “Opening bio-based markets via standards, labelling and procurement”. [1] Verwaltungsvorschrift für die Anwendung von Umweltschutzanforderungen bei der Beschaffung von Liefer-, Bau- und Dienstleistungen - VwVBU bioplastics MAGAZINE [01/16] Vol. 11 37

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