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New EU Green Public Procurement Criteria for Furniture Published

On 10 August 2017, the European Commission published new EU green public procurement (GPP) criteria for furniture, an area with a high annual spend by public authorities in the European Union.

The EU GPP criteria are voluntary criteria which aim to facilitate the inclusion of green requirements in public tender documents. The goal is to strike a balance between environmental performance, cost considerations, market availability and ease of verification. The criteria are one of the policy instruments under the Commission’s Integrated Product Policy (IPP) and apply to public procurement authorities across the EU Member States.

The new criteria for furniture were developed with the objective of prolonging product lifespans and minimising waste. They significantly alter the previous EU GPP criteria for furniture (the 2008 rules), and hence Hong Kong traders are advised to examine them carefully.

The new proposed approach entails procuring furniture which is durable, fit-for-use, easy-to-disassemble, repairable, recyclable and covered by a warranty for repair or replacement.

Public authorities are required to procure timber from legal sources. This means that it should be procured either in accordance with Regulation 995/2010, the EU Timber Regulation, which was adopted to combat illegal imports into the EU, with appropriate licences, or under due diligence systems implemented by the tenderer. Materials that are used also have to be made partially or wholly from renewable materials (such as wood).

The criteria also set maximum limits for total volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from furniture items and set specific limits for heavy metals such as cadmium and formaldehyde emissions from wood-based panels and upholstery materials.

Importantly, in addition to new furniture, the criteria also deal with refurbishment and end-of-life services. This is a major change from the 2008 rules. The new areas have been introduced with the intention of prolonging the lifespan of furniture products and minimising the environmental footprint of furniture disposal. This reflects an increased focus on including circular economy aspects in the criteria.

By the same token, the furniture criteria aim to reduce the quantities of waste sent to landfill, by making products easier to separate into their respective components and thereby simplifying recycling and energy recovery. According to the Commission, workplace overhauls and damaged furniture lead to regular and often premature furniture replacement in the EU, resulting in an increased need for responsible end-of-life disposal.

The criteria also aim to inform procurers about, and encourage skills-development in, furniture refurbishment services. Further, they encourage furniture companies to innovate in terms of design for disassembly and partial replacement of components.  

Additionally, the criteria are split into core and comprehensive criteria. The former allows for easy application of the criteria and the latter provides for higher levels of performance for authorities seeking to go further in supporting environmental and innovation goals.

Importantly, furniture that carries the EU Ecolabel, and hence has been certified as being green under the scheme, is likely to comply with the new GPP criteria. Like the new criteria, the Ecolabel furniture rules also focus on longer product lifespans.

It is expected that the EU GPP criteria for furniture, despite being voluntary, will influence the decision-making process of EU agencies and government bodies. Consequently, it is recommended that Hong Kong furniture sellers consider them carefully.

Please click on the following to view the Commission’s new EU GPP criteria for Furniture.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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