Responsible public procurement: how to integrate reuse into the IT purchasing policies of local authorities?

22 March 2023

The AGEC law, or anti-waste law for a circular economy, aims to change consumption to limit electronic waste and preserve natural resources, biodiversity and the climate, particularly in terms of responsible public purchasing.

Indeed, given the current environmental context, it is becoming urgent to act at all levels to fight against global warming and the scarcity of raw materials. In particular, there is now a trend towards using existing waste deposits as resources. This is the basis of the circular economy which, as opposed to the linear economy model, produces while limiting the consumption and waste of raw resources.

This law encourages, among other things, the reuse and recycling of electronic equipment. In particular, it has put the circular economy and the purchase of refurbished devices at the heart of responsible public procurement. Let’s take a closer look at what this obligation means for local authorities’ IT purchases and sustainable public procurement.

Sustainable public procurement and the AGEC Act

Let’s first recall what the law provides for in terms of public procurement. The decree of 9 March 2021, No. 2021-254, on the obligation to acquire goods from reuse or integration of recycled materials through public procurement, is an implementation decree of the law of 10 February 2020 (known as the AGEC law). The idea is that all those who are subject to the public procurement code should have an environmentally friendly attitude by moving from a linear economy to a circular economy and thus to a public procurement method that respects sustainable development.

Furthermore, Article 58 of the same law stipulated that goods acquired annually from 1 January 2021 by public actors must be reused or incorporate recycled materials in proportions of 20% to 100% depending on the type of product.

This means that purchasers from the State, local authorities and their groupings must acquire goods from reuse or recycling or with recycled materials. The target “between 20% and 100% depending on the type of product” is expressed as a percentage of the total expenditure excluding tax on the purchase of each product or product category. It should be noted that this objective is calculated per calendar year on the basis of invoicing amounts, and that the determination of the minimum proportions to be respected is not based on the amount of contracts concluded but on the amount of actual purchases of the products concerned in the calendar year under review.

Why these product ranges? The list of products (or product categories) listed in the annex to the decree was drawn up taking into account ADEME studies on reuse and recycling as well as feedback from professional sectors and experts in the field.

For professional IT equipment, this minimum proportion is thus set at 20%.

The idea is to make public procurement a lever for the circular economy, to contribute to the prevention of waste and the preservation of the environment; but, as usual with the purchase of refurbished and reused IT equipment, it is also an economic lever for buyers, and the cost reduction is estimated to be -50% on average on the contracts already tested!

Now that we have recalled the legal contours of the AGEC law and how it applies to the purchase of IT equipment by local authorities, let’s talk about putting it into practice: what problems and constraints do local authorities encounter in applying these laws?

What are the constraints for re-use in public procurement policies?

The law and the theory are one thing, their application is often quite another! Our experience in assisting local authorities in their purchases of refurbished equipment has given us a few examples, which we share with you.

The law stipulates that, for public actors, 20% of the annual budget allocated to IT equipment must be allocated to equipment that is reused or incorporates recycled materials. In theory, this is a laudable measure that helps to combat the production of new units and therefore carbon emissions and the growth of electronic waste. But let’s take the example of a public authority that has to tender for PCs for colleges. If 20% of these (approximately) have to be refurbished, how do you then manage the distribution? How do you determine who will benefit from a refurbished or reused PC versus a new PC? These two types of products are not exactly the same, and the question of distribution may arise.

Furthermore, this purchasing method is new for IT purchasing managers: what information to request, how to make the right call for tender, how to ensure that the products requested fall within the framework defined by the AGEC law… so many new questions that are difficult to answer without support. At Remober, because of our experience, we have been able to assist local authorities in these procedures. Here are some recommendations:

  • When buying refurbished laptops, it is important to be as specific as possible about the technical specifications. Having only the processor in the required specification is not enough, and you may end up with equipment that is unusable or unsuitable for your needs. On the other hand, you should be aware that the refurbished computer market is unstable. The sourcing and stock of equipment can change very quickly. It is important to have clear technical specifications rather than a fixed model in mind, and to remain open to new models that meet your needs. This is one of the main differences with the new market
  • Equipment with new batteries should be favoured. If we take the example of the refurbished PC, this is the part that will make the most difference between new and refurbished equipment. Ensuring that the battery is new will erase these differences and ensure that the equipment is of high quality and meets the required technical needs. It is also advisable to ask for a warranty of at least 3 years. In this way, you will have similar management to that of new equipment.
  • Focus on newer models. With this type of purchase, equipment is bought to last, and communities tend to use their equipment over a relatively long life cycle. By focusing on newer models, you can avoid the technical constraints of manufacturers’ roadmaps and keep your equipment longer.
  • Thinking in terms of usage is a good way to spread out refurbishment. Depending on the business needs or the uses to which the equipment will be put, you will need devices that are more or less recent, with more or less performance and compatibility with new software. Depending on your needs, it will be possible and more appropriate to allocate refurbished equipment without this being a hindrance.
  • If aesthetics are important, consider checking which grade(s) you wish to purchase (see table in the appendix). If aesthetics is a key criterion and it can complicate the allocation, we advise you to opt for second-hand CPUs! Their aesthetic aspect is of little importance as they are not very visible equipment, and the main thing is that they are functional.

In short, the AGEC law requires the purchase of refurbished IT equipment in the proportion of 20% of the annual budget. This new type of product reduces carbon emissions linked to the manufacture of IT equipment, limits electronic waste and encourages the development of a circular economy. In addition to these ecological advantages, sustainable public procurement is an economic lever for public purchasers as these products are less expensive. This new policy comes with its own difficulties of application. Remober can therefore rely on its experience and knowledge of the market to support local authorities in this process. If you would like more information, do not hesitate to contact us or to consult our offer on the sale of reconditioned IT equipment!