Circular Economy

Minimum environmental criteria: what they are and what they are

We discover the definition of Minimum Environmental Criteria (MEC), the regulations governing them and their impact on Public Administration and companies towards energy transition

Simone Tabellini per Sfridoo

Simone Tabellini

Green Marketer

What are the Minimum Environmental Criteria

The Minimum Environmental Criteria, also known by the acronym CAM, are a set of requirements that aim to clearly identify projects, products or services that excel in terms of the environment and impact throughout their life cycle.

At the regulatory level, in Italy, CAMs are indicated within Art. 18 of Law 221/2015 and Art. 34 of Legislative Decree 50/2016 ‘Procurement Code’ (amended by Legislative Decree 56/2017), a decree that made the mandatory application of these criteria in all contracting projects.

This obligation guarantees several public procurement benefits at the national policy level, such as:

  • reduce environmental impact;
  • promote more sustainable production and consumption patterns;
  • encourage circular transition projects;
  • spread employment within green jobs.


CAM are defined and listed within the “Action Plan for the Environmental Sustainability of Public Administration Consumption”, better known by its acronym PAN GPP.

The NAP GPP not only mainly provides the spending volumes of the Minimum Environmental Criteria, but also provides a general framework on Green Public Procurement (GPP), defining targets and categories of goods and services.

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What are MEC certified products?

The list of MEC certified products is constantly updated to reflect current trends and changing regulations. These revisions ensure coverage of an ever-widening range of supplies and services.

The categories currently recognised in MEC certified products are indoor furniture, street furniture, incontinence aids, occupational footwear and leather accessories, paper, cartridges, construction, cultural events, public lighting (supply and design), public lighting (service), industrial washing and textile rental, cleaning and sanitisation, municipal waste street sweeping, catering, energy services for buildings, printers, textiles, vehicles and public green.

The Decree of 6 November 2023 also extended the categories of services that meet the MEC criteria, including catering services and the distribution of mains water for drinking purposes.

We see the MEC-certified products listed here.

Interior furniture

MEC-certified interior furniture includes furniture that complies with criteria of sustainability and low emission of volatile organic compounds, ensuring greater protection of the environment and health.

Urban furniture

MEC-compliant street furniture products include playground design and outdoor furniture maintenance, with a focus on durability and reduced environmental impact.

Incontinence aids

Supplies of incontinence aids that follow specific guidelines to reduce environmental impact, offering sustainable solutions for an essential daily need.

Leather work footwear and accessories

Leather work footwear and accessories not only guarantee safety but are also produced according to ecological standards for a reduced impact on the environment.


Copying and graphic paper that complies with MEC, favouring the use of sustainable raw materials and production processes with low environmental impact.


Toner and inkjet cartridges, as well as an integrated collection and reuse service, promoting recycling and reduction of technological waste.


MEC-compliant design and construction services, focusing on energy efficiency and the use of eco-friendly materials for sustainable building.

Cultural Events

Organisation of MEC-compliant cultural events, seeking to minimise environmental impact through sustainable event management practices.

Public lighting (supply and design)

MEC-compliant public lighting solutions, aiming at energy efficiency and light pollution reduction.

Public lighting (service)

MEC-compliant public lighting services including efficient energy management and the use of environmentally friendly technologies.

Industrial textile washing and rental

Textile washing and rental services that follow MEC to reduce water consumption and the use of harmful chemicals, promoting more sustainable practices.

Cleaning and sanitisation

Cleaning and sanitising services that follow MEC, using products and methodologies that aim to reduce environmental impact and ensure user safety.

Urban waste and street sweeping

Urban waste management and street sweeping by MEC, promoting separate waste collection, recycling and reducing environmental impact.

Collective catering

Collective catering services and food supplies following MEC, to promote sustainable nutrition and reduce food waste.

Contract catering services

Installation and management of beverage and snack vending machines, bar services, and sandwich preparation and serving service with a view to sustainability.

Distribution of mains water for drinking purposes

Installation and management of ‘water houses’ and access points to mains water for drinking purposes, using eco-friendly technologies to promote responsible use of water resources.

Energy Services for Buildings

Management of energy services for buildings according to MEC, including lighting, heating and cooling, geared towards efficiency and energy saving.


Managed printing services and rental of office equipment in line with MEC, encouraging reduced paper consumption and energy efficiency.


MEC-compliant textile products and restyling services that support reuse and long life of textiles, reducing environmental impact and waste.


MEC-compliant vehicle procurement and rental, including public and private transport vehicles with high standards of energy efficiency and reduced emissions.

Public Green

MEC-compliant public green management and landscaping supplies that promote biodiversity and environmentally sustainable gardening techniques.

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The role of Contracting Stations

Verification of compliance with the Minimum Environmental Criteria (MEC) is a key aspect of ensuring that products and services meet pre-determined ecological standards.

This verification responsibility falls mainly on the Contracting Stations, i.e. the entities and administrations that issue public tenders.

At the tendering stage, it is the responsibility of the contracting authorities to ensure that the technical specifications of MEC are adequately integrated into the tenders. This ensures that the products or services offered by suppliers are in line with the required environmental sustainability parameters.

How are the criteria applied and what value do they have?

The application of the criteria is across all tenders, regardless of their economic value, and they are a key element in the awarding of tenders according to the principle of the most economically advantageous offer.

For professionals in the sector, understanding MEC compliance goes beyond mere bureaucratic compliance. It is a real ethical and professional commitment to promote responsible and sustainable purchasing practices.

In the area of MEC compliance and interpretation, the National Anti-Corruption Authority plays a decisive role.

Intervening in the event of disputes or providing clarification on the correct application of MEC, the National Anti-Corruption Authority ensures compliance and the proper execution of public contracts.

Who has to do the MEC report?

The MEC report, a crucial document certifying that a project complies with the Minimum Environmental Criteria, is the responsibility of the project contractor, usually the designer.

With the decree of 23 June 2022, the designer acquires a new direct responsibility in the selection and application of the environmental content of the project.

This responsibility extends beyond the traditional involvement of the Contracting Authority and the contractor, emphasising the importance of sustainable design from its initial stages.

The Contracting Authority, while retaining overall responsibility, has the task of deciding on the tendering approach among several strategic options. One option is to opt for the maximum discount, a method that strictly follows the MEC requirements.

Alternatively, the Contracting Authority may choose the most economically advantageous offer, which encourages a more ambitious and sustainable design.

Who is the MEC application expert?

The MEC application expert is a highly qualified figure, who possesses specialised knowledge and skills in integrating MEC into construction and renovation projects.

This professional can operate through different frameworks, i.e. as a freelancer, within public administrations or private companies. He/she manages all the project phases, from the planning and preparation of tenders to the verification and validation of projects. Finally, it ensures the acceptance of works so that every aspect complies with MEC.

For example: for projects in the construction sector, the MEC expert becomes the point of reference for the optimisation of building processes. He works closely with architects, engineers and construction companies to realise works that meet the highest standards of sustainability and energy efficiency.

He also interfaces with contracting authorities to ensure that projects meet the requirements of public and private tenders.

What advantages do MEC have?

Graphic that has a forest as a background and above it an inscription that reads: "CAM encourages the adoption of sustainable environmental practices, improving consumption efficiency and reducing costs in public administration."

The application of MEC allows the dissemination of virtuous environmental technologies and practices, inducing economic operators to adapt to the new demands of the public administration.

In addition to the enhancement of environmental quality and compliance with social criteria, the application of the Minimum Environmental Criteria also responds to the public administration’s need to rationalise its consumption, reducing expenditure where possible.

The advantages of MEC are, therefore, manifold:

  • Reducing environmental impact: MEC are tools designed to minimise the ecological impact of products and services throughout their life cycle.
  • Promotion of sustainable models: the adoption of MEC stimulates the creation and adoption of more environmentally friendly production and consumption models.
  • Encouragement of circular transition: through MEC, the transition towards a circular economy, which aims at the re-use and recycling of resources, is encouraged.
  • Development of green jobs: the application of MEC can generate new job opportunities in the green economy sector, contributing to the growth of a greener and more sustainable labour market.
  • Standardisation of practices: MEC provides clear guidelines for the application of environmental practices in projects, making it easier for companies and public authorities to implement sustainable solutions.
  • Improvement of energy efficiency: in construction projects, MEC promote the use of materials and technologies that improve the energy efficiency of buildings.
  • Support in tenders: MEC is an evaluation criterion in public tenders, favouring companies that engage in sustainable practices.
  • Regulatory compliance: following MEC ensures companies are in line with current environmental regulations, avoiding legal and reputational risks.
  • Brand enhancement: companies that adopt MEC can capitalise on this commitment in their communication, enhancing their brand as responsible and sustainable.
  • Integration of environmental values in other policies of the entity: through MEC he rationalisation of consumption within the Public Administration is promoted.
  • Promotion in the use of tools such as LCA, LCC, SLCA: MEC encourages the use of assessment tools such as Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), Life Cycle Costing (LCC) and Social Life Cycle Analysis (SLCA).
  • Raising awareness of the indirect costs of goods and services: MEC helps to spread awareness that products and services entail indirect costs related to the environment and society.
  • Increased attention in the disposal phase: MEC emphasises the importance of considering the end-of-life phases of materials, which are often costly and have a strong environmental impact.

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The MEC challenge in Italy

Despite the strategic importance of Minimum Environmental Criteria (MEC) and Green Public Procurement (GPP) for the ecological transition and sustainable development, Italy is facing significant challenges in their full implementation.

The recent Green Procurement Observatory report shows a slowdown in the adoption of MEC by public administrations, with a decrease in the use of these essential criteria in various product categories.

This trend underlines the need for more and better-coordinated efforts to fully integrate GPP and MEC principles into public procurement policies.

Addressing the challenges, such as staff training and effective tendering, is crucial to accelerate the transition to a greener and circular economy, underlining the importance of these tools in promoting responsible and sustainable purchasing practices.

MEC and by-products, a possible combination?

In the context of the Circular Economy, the integration of Minimum Environmental Criteria (MEC) and the use of by-products is emerging as a winning strategy for a more sustainable industry.

MEC Benefits and Subproducts

This report is based on the idea that by-products, instead of being considered waste, can become valuable resources if managed and used correctly.

  • Streamlined management: by using by-products, this streamlined management allows faster processes and direct contact between producers and users, reducing costs.
  • Process optimisation: the use of by-products sees a future where companies create synergies and exchange materials that were previously disposed of as waste.
  • Quality assurance: the by-product comes directly from the companies, which can therefore guarantee a certain standard of material quality and continuity of production.

Interview with Artigo

We talked about this topic with Sergio Lenzi of Artigo in the interview on the podcast ‘Circular Economy for All’.

According to Lenzi, MEC legislation in the construction sector plays a crucial role in ensuring the sustainability and eco-friendliness of products and services, thus contributing to the circular transition.

Although some materials from waste recovery processes may be attractive, the lack of an industrial supply chain poses a significant challenge in filling the material demand gap, Lenzi reports:

“It is difficult to find recycled materials that can directly replace traditional raw materials … I see by-products as an opportunity for industry. They offer flexibility, simplified management, process optimisation and quality assurance. However, it is essential to have the right skills to handle these materials.”

Simone Tabellini per Sfridoo

Simone Tabellini

Green Marketer

One of the challenges of the Circular Economy is to be able to communicate clearly and effectively the benefits that this economic model can bring to companies. By investing in this aspect, we can increase awareness and knowledge in people.