Sustainable Procurement Tools

Policy and Legal Context

A focus on waste may form part of a public sector organisation’s sustainability strategy, waste or environmental strategy. These will be aligned with a number of National Outcomes within Scotland’s National Performance Framework. The National Performance Framework focusses our activity around ‘creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish through increased wellbeing, and sustainable and inclusive economic growth’. The relevant National Outcomes and Indicators for waste and resource consumption are:

 Environment: We value, enjoy, protect and enhance our environment

    • Waste generated

Economy: We have a globally competitive, entrepreneurial, inclusive and sustainable economy

    • Carbon footprint


Scotland was one of the first counties in the world to sign up to the Sustainable Development Goals which have been developed to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. Many of the Goals align with Scotland’s National Performance Framework. The Goal relevant to waste is UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.


The Waste Hierarchy

The waste hierarchy gives top priority to preventing waste. When waste is created, it gives priority to preparing it for reuse, then recycling, then other recovery, and last of all disposal (i.e. landfill). The least preferable options result in a loss of resources, significant costs and environmental degradation so the emphasis must be on the most preferable options.

Public bodies should ensure that contractors apply the waste hierarchy while meeting all relevant waste regulations. See SEPA regulations for more information.


Reduce - Reduce the amount of waste generated and resources consumed

Prepare for Reuse - Using resources repeatedly, including through reuse, repair, reconditioning or remanufacturing

Recycle - Using resources to make new products

Recover other value - Recovering energy from waste

Disposal - Safe disposal to landfill – only where no alternative option


The Waste Hierarchy and Circular Economy

‘Making Things Last – A Circular Economy Strategy for Scotland’ sets out a plan for transition to a circular economy, which links to the avoidance of and optimum management of waste. This includes targets to send no more than 5% of all waste to landfill by 2025, and to cut food waste by a third by 2025.

Applying the waste hierarchy by adopting a circular approach, whereby resources are kept in use for as long as possible, the maximum value is extracted from them whilst in use and then products and materials are recovered and regenerated at the end of a product’s viable life cycle can deliver a range of benefits for:

  • the environment, by cutting waste, the use of virgin materials and related carbon emissions;
  • the economy; improving productivity, stimulating innovation and new markets;
  • communities, by providing local employment opportunities and lower cost options to access the goods we need;
  • it also has the potential to help address supply chain disruption – reducing reliance on new materials and products reduces supply chain risks.

Buyers should consider the appropriate procurement strategy to be followed to maximise waste reduction opportunities and the above intended outcomes.


Can waste and resource consumption be avoided?

  • Rethink the need for procurement – do we need to buy/ what is needed?
  • Focus on ownership and utilisation as well as need. Can the required function be delivered in a better way – e.g. shared / leased ownership models / managed service? Public bodies pay for the use of the products (their function), not for their ownership. At the end of its life cycle, the product goes back to the supplier. This can reduce the likelihood that they will become waste, as the provider will have an incentive (and will be better placed) to provide durable, flexible products and ensure effective end of life management (although buyers should seek assurance that these assets are managed by suppliers so as to minimise waste and resource consumption) - examples may include a managed equipment service, hiring of uniforms, managed furniture services, repair, reconditioning services and others.

Prepare for Re-use

Re-use means ‘any operation by which products or components that are not waste are used again for the same purpose for which they were conceived’ (Waste Framework Directive 2008). See the SEPA Reuse Activities and Waste Regulation Guidance for more details.

  • Can items be re-used first internally or externally, are asset registers in place and up to date? What infrastructure exists or is required to deal with this?
  • Can re-used, refurbished or remanufactured products, commodities or equipment be procured?
  • Specifying for Optimum Life (through re-use, durability, disassembly, repair during the original life and upgrade).
  • Are commodities procured and relevant components designed for re-use?

If items cannot be reused elsewhere within the organisation, then there are significant markets for reuse, repair, reconditioning and remanufacture services. The third sector is heavily involved in these markets as well as private sector businesses. Engagement with the market is essential to understand capability and capacity.


If a product cannot be re-used, ensure that it is made of recyclable materials, and even better, made from recycled materials. Buyers should seek opportunities to prevent waste, apply the waste hierarchy in contracts in a relevant and proportionate manner, and ensure compliance with waste regulations.

Further support and guidance on resource efficiency, waste prevention and the application of circular approaches is available from:


Climate change reporting

Waste reduction is aligned with emissions reduction, so is aligned with The Climate Change (Duties of Public Bodies: Reporting Requirements) (Scotland) Order 2015 which requires public sector bodies to publish annual climate change reports, including on Procurement (Part 5), to demonstrate compliance with climate change duties.


Waste Regulations

Waste (Scotland) Regulations introduced the need to separate key materials for recycling and separate food waste, while WEEE regulations, implemented in the UK through the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2013 aim to reduce the impact of end of life electronic and electrical items. Other regulations including the use of authorised waste carriers and brokers is available from SEPA.


The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007 (as amended) are in place to make sure businesses that manufacture, import and sell certain products are responsible for those products once they become waste.

Producer responsibility law in the UK covers packaging, electrical and electronic equipment (EEE), batteries and vehicles.

Buyers should seek opportunities to prevent waste, apply the waste hierarchy in contracts in a relevant and proportionate manner, and ensure compliance with waste regulations.



Public procurement - taking account of climate and circular economy considerations: SPPN 3/2022 reflects additional sources of help and support which have been developed to enable public procurement authorities to use procurement to address the climate emergency.  It clarifies expectations with respect to climate and circular economy considerations. It aligns climate change reporting duties with procurement policy and legislation which requires public bodies to consider and act on opportunities to improve social and environmental wellbeing. It highlights that public bodies should use their public procurement spend to support climate and circular economy ambitions, signposting sources of support to embed this policy in practice.


The Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 (the Act) places a sustainable procurement duty on a contracting authority before they buy anything, to think about how they can – though their procurements - improve the social, environmental and economic wellbeing in Scotland, with a particular focus on reducing inequality, and act in a way to secure this. For example through the appropriate use of the sustainability test and its associated tool; the prioritisation methodology, and the application of relevant and proportionate contract requirements.


The Act also requires obligated organisations to develop a corporate procurement strategy and report against its delivery at the end of each year, emphasising the importance of monitoring and reporting delivery of intended sustainable outcomes. 


The public procurement regulations allow a contracting authority to exclude companies from tendering for public contracts for not meeting certain conditions. This includes breach of any obligations in environmental, social or labour law; and select the most suitable bidders based on technical ability and previous experience in relation to the subject matter of the contract. This is done through the Single Procurement Document (SPD)


The public procurement regulations also permit contracting authorities to ask for tenderers to be registered under a certain label scheme - as long as the circumstances outlined in specification development apply.

Return to Index                                                                                             Continue to Pre-contract Notification