Environmental design even for furniture

The Ministry of Ecological Transition with Ministerial Decree No. 254 of June 23, 2022 (Official Gazette No. 184 of August 8, 2022 – effective December 6, 2022) revised and replaced the Minimum Environmental Criteria for the contracting of the supply, rental and life extension service of interior furniture contained in the previous CAM of January 2017.

The Scope of the new Furnishings CAM includes interior furniture items (even if made-to-measure), as per the Common Procurement Vocabulary (CPV) codes listed in it. By way of example we report: Coat hangers, Wardrobes, School furniture, Furniture items and miscellaneous furniture (Shelving, Desks, Chairs, Tables, Cabinets, Showcases). Also included are movable interior walls (non-load-bearing interior partition systems) as defined in UNI 10700 Internal Partitions – Movable Interior Walls – Terminology and Classification and Packaging.

The choice of criteria contained in the new CAM is based on the principles and development models of the circular economy. The objective, in fact, is to enable contracting stations to reduce the environmental impacts of purchases and services related to furniture, considered from a LCA life cycle perspective, by inviting them to assess their real needs through a careful reconnaissance of the furniture they have (both in use and decommissioned) and encouraging the extension of their average life, the purchase of reconditioned used furniture or their rental.

The ‘life extension of furniture, one of the main innovations introduced, contemplates the repair or donation of used furniture, providing, where this is not possible, for non-destructive disassembly to recycle the recovered material. The introduction of this service allows for the maximum extension of the useful life of goods and their components, their reintegration with less waste and fewer externalities, including in relation to the presence and emissions of hazardous substances and energy use.

What the new CAMs provide for

As indicated by the CAM itself, industry analyses carried out in Europe have shown, based on LCA studies, that the environmental impact of furniture is mainly due (80-90%) to the materials and components used, the use of chemicals for coatings during the production process, and energy consumption due to the polymerization of plastic materials. Therefore, eco-design of furniture is promoted through the use of renewable or recycled materials, modularity, and non-destructive disassembly to allow the recovery of parts for use as spare parts or recycling of materials in authorized facilities that valorize material resources in ways permitted by current laws.

In synergy with the European Commission’s current environmental policy, the issue of packaging is also addressed in relation to the content of recycled materials and in view of the short lifespan of the packaging itself. This aspect, according to LCA studies compared for the preliminary study of the European Green Public Procurement GPP criteria, accounts for 6 percent of the sector’s environmental impacts.

On the subject of using renewable or recycled materials, Section 4.1.6, “Plastics Materials,” indicates that if the total plastic content (including padding), in the finished product, exceeds 20 percent of the total product weight (excluding, therefore, the packaging), then the plastic components must be made of at least 30 percent recycled plastic or bio-based plastic in accordance with the technical standard. While Section 4.1.10 “Packaging” specifies that cardboard components must be made of at least 70 percent and plastic components must be made of at least 30 percent recycled material.

To demonstrate compliance with this, an organization must request from a third-party conformity assessment body , verification of the recycled content through one of the evidences specified in the DM itself or a product certification, based on material traceability or mass balance, indicating the percentage of recycled plastic or the percentage of bio-based plastic on the certificate


In addition to product-specific certifications aimed at verifying only the recycled content, it should be noted that the CAM also includes as a means of proof the Environmental Product Declaration EPD that has made this information explicit within it.

The EPD represents the product’s “environmental identity card.” The document represents an important form of communication aimed at disseminating environmental information related to the production of a product/service. Its contents are aimed primarily at industrial and commercial users, taking full advantage of the peculiarities of business-to-business communication. It is necessary, therefore, for the Environmental Statement to be transparent so that it can be understood and interpreted correctly by all.

The environmental impacts of a product/service are determined by an LCA “Life Cycle Assessment” life cycle study that provides the manufacturer with a methodology for analyzing its processes, from “cradle to gate” or “cradle to grave,” i.e., from the extraction of raw materials to the factory gate or to the decommissioning of the product; passing through the stages of production and use, looking for environmental impacts, but also for waste and opportunities for optimization and savings. This analysis can be conducted with the help of documents called Product Category Rules PCR that define, for each product category, the set of “common rules” that all relevant EPDs and related LCA studies must comply with to ensure consistency and comparability.

In fact, EPDs must comply with the Product Category Rules, defined by Program Operators such as EPDItaly, dedicated to companies that want to communicate internationally the environmental performance of their products, thus transmitting not only the technical aspects but also that concept of territorial belonging and Italian excellence that is appreciated and recognized worldwide.

To meet the needs of Italian manufacturers who want to develop an EPD in compliance with the requirements of the DM, EPDItaly has embarked on the path of developing the PCR related to furniture.

This path will include, in addition to the following phases:

Several major parties belonging to Ecamricert, Environment Park, Federlegno, Indaco 2, Ministry of Environment and Energy Security, Take Care International, University of Bari, Università Mediterranea di Reggio Calabria, Università Politecnica delle Marche, and University of Siena are participating in the development of the PCR.

Among the Awarding Criteria also worth mentioning is the additional technical score to the economic operator who demonstrates its ability to adopt environmental management measures through the possession of UNI EN ISO 14001 Management System Certification and EMAS registration