One of the opportunities for reducing the quantity and toxicity of electronic waste is the exercising of purchasing preference for environmentally preferable designs and programs.
Identifying environmental attributes
- RoHS compliance: Since only ten percent of computers and electronics are currently recycled, reducing electronic equipments’ overall toxicity at the design stage is a critical step in reducing toxic wastes.
The United States does not currently regulate mercury, cadmium and lead in manufacturing as closely as the European Union, where a directive entitled, “restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment” (RoHS) was enacted and recently updated to cover all electrical and electronic equipment including medical devices. An alternative to regulating these materials is voluntary environmental purchasing practices by healthcare facilities. Such purchasing strategies encourage manufacturers to increase the number of products that meet high environmental standards from design and manufacture to end-of-life.
Specific purchasing strategies discussed below include use of the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), contractual requirements for minimal toxicity of materials and asset management plans using e-Stewards certified recyclers at the time of purchasing, as well as supplier “take-back”, upgrade, or leasing programs.
- Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT): When developing specifications for an electronics purchasing decision, consider use of the EPEATregistered products. EPEAT applies to:
- personal computers (PCs) (desktops, laptops, workstations, thin client devices) and displays;
- office “imaging equipment” (not medical) as defined by ENERGY STAR as printers, copiers, multi-functional devices, fax machines, digital duplicators and mailing machines (and other electronics as developed)
- EPEAT consists of a set of voluntary environmental performance criteria, which address:
- Reduction of toxic materials
- Materials selection including recycled and bio-based content
- Design for end of life to assist in ease of recycling
- Product upgradeable to encourage longer useful life
- Energy conservation
- Availability of an end of life management system
- Measures of general corporate environmental performance
- Packaging reduction efforts including take-back programs and recycled or bio-based content.
EPEAT provides a web-based system for suppliers to register products which meet the standard’s criteria at one of three levels – Bronze, Silver, and Gold, followed by registry surveillance and ongoing verification. Purchasers can locate registered products on the web site: http://www.epeat.net/.
Measure EPEAT Success: When writing specifications, include in contracts terms the request for annual reports of EPEAT purchases to help track and calculate environmental benefits as well program success. Most organizations find they are already purchasing EPEAT registered devices at no additional cost with the benefit of energy savings and reduced environmental impact. According to the Federal Acquisition Regulation, federal agencies are required to purchase EPEAT-registered products.
Leasing: From an environmental perspective, leasing can have several advantages over purchase of electronic equipment. For an organization concerned about potential downstream liability under CERCLA (Superfund) for the disposal of equipment with hazardous materials in it, leasing eliminates direct liability. However, organizations also have a responsibility to ask the provider of leased equipment how they manage their own recycling. Companies providing leased computers and other electronic equipment are eligible to become e-Stewards and organizations should ensure that their providers are e-Steward compliant. Also, a lease agreement, like any purchasing instrument, can be used to specify equipment with reduced toxicity. Finally, when an organization leases equipment, the supplier has a vested interest in getting the maximum value for the equipment after its use by your organization. Thus, the supplier will take that value into account when negotiating price and lease life.
Upgradeability and take-back options: Extending the life of electronic equipment is a key to reducing waste, and one of the most environmentally sound steps to take. Seek contracts that have upgradeability options, so the equipment’s efficiency can be improved without replacement over a longer period of time. Some EPEAT-registered products may already meet the requirements related to upgradeability and end-of-life.
Many electronics manufacturers offer or sponsor take-back programs for obsolete or unneeded equipment. Ask for manufacturer-run or manufacturer-sponsored take-back at the time of purchase – the take-back program should be e-Steward compliant.
If manufacturers are responsible for end-of-life costs and become e-Steward compliant, they will be motivated to make the products last longer, provide technical support and parts for a longer number of years, make their products more easily recycled, and design them with less toxic materials. More information on end of life solutions Link this to the sub page below