(Bulk) purchase of bio-based plastic products in the public and entrepreneurial sectors – criteria, selection, incentives

In collaboration with narocon Innovation Consulting and the law office DAGEFÖRDE Öffentliches Wirtschaftsrecht, ifeu is carrying out the project "(Bulk) purchase of bio-based plastic products in the public and entrepreneurial sectors- criteria, selection, incentive", commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture and funded through the “Renewable Resources” initiative. The project explores the potential to implement the instrument of ‘sustainable and innovative procurement’ for bio-based plastics, or to enable implementation to facilitate market launch.

The bioecomony strategy of the Federal Government seeks a shift toward renewable resources to conserve resources and mitigate climate change. Thus, it provides a strong motivation to explore applications for bio-based plastics, which are among the most promising product innovations of the bio-based economy. Due to the development to date and their considerable potential, bio-based plastics exemplify the change from a linear economy near-exclusively based on fossil feedstocks to a circular economy that relies on the manufacture of products primarily from renewable resources. Although a number of bio-based plastics and a variety of products are already available in different sectors, the general market launch of bio-based plastics in Germany is still in its infancy. For a multitude of reasons, the development of bio-based plastics including anticipated positive effects and wide market penetration is in the interest of State, economy and society. In the present project, the project partners are looking for ways to introduce and promote bio-based plastics in bulk purchase in the public sector, an area ruled by economic principle, yet carefully regulated through strict legislation.

The most recent German law on public procurement based on EU legislation adopted in 2014 explicitly specifies a certain latitude to integrate innovative character or ecological and social criteria into the procurement procedure. The goal is the promotion of sustainable development and innovation. Thus, bio-based products could benefit from the considerable purchasing power of the German public sector. Private organisation could follow the example of public authorities and in turn begin to implement entrepreneurial sustainability strategies. Both the State and a considerable number of businesses have made climate protection and sustainable development part of their agenda. The present project also aims to explore and adapt the requirements associated with sustainability criteria to render the existing stipulations practical and applicable. Environmental or quality certification systems and criteria are already available; however, they often lack popularity, practicability or value for money. This is particularly relevant for new markets and small and medium-size businesses. As a guiding principle, innovations equally require coordination and room for progress to advance, develop and realise their potential. Sustainability is the goal, yet there are many steps to take on the path towards it.

The project will analyse the existing demand in several categories in the public sector and compare that demand with the potential spectrum of products of offer. Moreover, the requirements that products and producers (can) fulfil during the procurement process will be examined for their suitability to comply with ecological and technological-economic regulations. Solutions and existing gaps will be identified and recommendations for practical application will be made. An in-depth dialogue with producers and buyers is essential for the project. Workshops with all relevant stakeholders will facilitate exchange of information and unite all parties in the search for solutions. The future stakeholder network will not be limited to Germany, but rather be actively integrated into a larger framework of European projects with a similar focus.


During the first stage of the project, a feasibility analysis and the establishment of a network will be the main priority. The status quo will be defined in legal, economic and ecological terms. Potentials, barriers and ways to overcome impediments have to be explored. In a proposed seco


September 2016 – August 2018


Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture (Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft)


narocon Innovation Consulting


DAGEFÖRDE Öffentliches Wirtschaftsrecht (law office)

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