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by John Katz, Wayne Rifer and Allen R. Wilson

Green Electronics
A Look at the Development of EPEAT

here is a growing desire by governmental and private institutional purchasers to reduce the environmental impact of the electronic products they buy. To date, however, institutional purchasers have not been able to easily distinguish environmentally preferable products among all those in the marketplace. There was no consensus on what environmental aspects of a product should be evaluated, how they should be weighted, and how those aspects could be incorporated into the purchasing process. Current ecolabels are either not well known, or the range of certified products is too limited for large purchasers. Governmental purchasers also lack the expertise to evaluate complex environmental issues. The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) is a new approach for institutional purchasers to identify and evaluate environmentally preferable electronic products.

It establishes a clear set of performance criteria for desktop computers, laptops and monitors and recognizes higher levels of environmental performance. The tool was developed by a multistakeholder group composed of equipment manufacturers, governmental and private purchasers, non-governmental organizations and environmental professionals. It is designed to be easy to use, with an interactive Web site to speed product registration. The registration process will not slow time to market for new products. The tool encompasses a range of environmental attributes, including toxic materials, material selection, lifecycle extension, energy use, design for end of life and end-of-life management and packaging. There is significant pent-up market demand for EPEAT. Currently 14 federal agencies and four states have pledged to use the tool in future electronics purchasing, representing more than $10 billion in purchasing potential. As a result, several

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major manufacturers have indicated an interest in registering that their products meet the EPEAT standards. This article will review the development of EPEAT, including the structure of the tool, the criteria considered and the next steps in its development. First, however, we will review the current market for green electronic products.
NATURE OF THE GREEN ELECTRONICS MARKET The government purchasing market is large and growing. The federal government spent $10.6 billion in 2004 on information technology (IT) infrastructure, office automation and telecommunications, and is projected to spend $10.95 billion in 2006. State and local purchasing is estimated to be double that amount. As the need for IT equipment grows, so does the demand for greener products. There are three executive orders mandating federal agencies to buy environmentally preferable products. Currently, more than 18 states, 30 counties and 20 cities have policies establishing preferences for a wide range of environmentally preferable products. Increasingly, these procurement policies are targeting electronic products. Electronics are one of the fastest growing segments of the solid waste stream. A recent report entitled Exporting Harm published by the Basel Action Network showed how waste electronics are poisoning communities in developing countries. This has galvanized activists to demand that manufacturers and purchasers improve the environmental footprint of electronic products. To date, Massachusetts, Minnesota and the 15-state Western States Contracting Alliance (WSCA) have included environmental criteria in recent contract specifications for IT equipment. In addition, California will be developing purchasing guidelines for environmentally preferable electronics in July 2005. Finally, more than 14 federal agencies have signed up for the Federal Electronics Challenge, thereby committing to incorporate environmental considerations when buying, maintaining and disposing of electronic equipment. However, all these efforts are still struggling with defining what makes a greener electronic product. A review of ecolabels by the Electronics Industry Alliance (EIA) found more than a dozen programs that involve third-party certification to specific standards, and many more self-declaration programs. Some of the best known are Germanys Blue Angel, the European Unions Eco-Flower, the Swedish TCO label and the Japanese Eco-Mark. The criteria addressed by these labels can vary widely. While they share many identical criteria, EIA found that labeling programs attempt to differentiate their label by adding unique criteria. This means manufacturers are forced to respond to requirements that vary widely in terms of the environmental aspects covered, the level of documentation required and the relative weighting given to environmental attributes. In addition, some of the labels require significant investment of time and cost, which can be difficult to justify given the short product cycle for many electronic products. As a result, manufacturers do not widely support these labels. Purchasers also find that current ecolabels do not include a broad enough range of products to meet their need for competitive bids. For instance, a February 2005 review of certified products on the TCO Web site found only four portable computers

EPEAT Development Team Member Affiliations


PURCHASERS (PUBLIC AND PRIVATE)

US Department of the Interior State of Massachusetts State of Oregon City of Seattle GATX Inc. Pitney Bowes

ELECTRONICS MANUFACTURERS

Apple Computer Dell Computer Electronic Industries Alliance Hewlett Packard IBM Intel Panasonic Matsushita Electronics Sharp Electronics

RECYCLING INDUSTRY

Noranda Recycling United Recycling Industries International Association of Electronics Recyclers Waste Management Inc.

ACADEMIC INSTITUTIONS

New Jersey Institute of Technology Tufts University University of Tennessee

NGOs

Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition Center for a New American Dream Northeast Recycling Coalition Healthcare for a Healthy Environment INFORM Inc. Zero Waste Alliance

ENVIRONMENTAL AGENCIES

Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance US Environmental Protection Agency CA Integrated Waste Management Board
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and 20 system units (all of submitted by one company). The German ecolabel Blue Angel also has limited offerings. There are only seven computer monitors listed as certified, and 34 system units for desktop personal computers. More than twothirds of the system units are slight model variations provided by only two companies. Lacking a consistent standard they can apply, government and private purchasers have tried to develop their own. They have found, however, that they do not have the resources or expertise to collect and evaluate the complex environmental information needed to identify and select environmentally preferable electronics.
RESPONDING TO THE NEED The development of EPEAT was prompted by the growing demand by institutional purchasers for an easy-to-use evaluation tool that allows the comparison and selection of electronic products based on environmental performance. The Zero Waste Alliance, through a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), convened a set of stakeholders to establish the scope and process for developing a tool that would meet this demand. The electronics industry welcomed and actively participated in the development of EPEAT and envisioned EPEAT as a way to communicate relevant and meaningful information to institutional purchasers about the environmental impacts posed by electronic products. Following an initial scoping meeting and stakeholder assessment, the EPEAT development team was convened to design the system.

Be low cost, user friendly and cause minimal delay in time to market; Produce credible, verifiable outcomes that are accepted by relevant stakeholders and; Provide sufficient value in the marketplace to sustain itself. The development team completed its work in November 2004. It established both a proposed structure and process for evaluating and registering products to EPEAT criteria, and put forward a draft set of criteria. The tool is now in a transition phase, as those recommendations are being honed and a host organization is being chosen to implement the tool.

Taken as a whole, the EPEAT system will provide purchasers with a simple and verifiable program for the selection of environmentally sustainable products.
The development team was composed of representatives from electronics manufacturers, public and private purchasers, environmental organizations, recyclers and federal and state environmental agency representatives. See Table 1 for a list of organizations represented on the EPEAT development team. The mission of the development team was to develop an environmental procurement tool designed to help institutional purchasers in the public and private sectors evaluate, compare and select desktop computers, laptops and monitors based on their environmental attributes. The development team identified that the tool should: Promote continuous improvement in the environmental performance without stifling, and while encouraging, innovation; Address the lifecycle of electronic products, including but not limited to design, procurement, use and end-of-life; Inform purchasing decisions by institutional purchasers regarding the environmental attributes of electronic products; Offer market advantage for companies that provide products and services that achieve improved environmental performance;
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PROPOSED STRUCTURE AND CRITERIA FOR EPEAT The EPEAT tool will recognize three tiers of environmental performance for electronic performanceBronze, Silver and Gold. The complete set of EPEAT criteria includes 22 mandatory criteria (all criteria must be met to achieve baseline EPEAT ranking) and 33 optional criteria (producers can pick and choose among these criteria to boost their EPEAT baseline score to achieve a higher ranking level). The three tiers are defined as: Bronze: Product meets all 22 mandatory criteria. Silver: Product meets all 22 mandatory criteria plus at least 16 optional criteria. Gold: Product meets all 22 mandatory criteria plus at least 25 optional criteria. Manufacturers will sign a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that commits them to provide accurate product and company information and provides for remedies should inaccuracies be discovered. Manufacturers will selfdeclare, via a Web-based interface, that their specific products meet EPEAT criteria. The host organization will manage the MOU process, maintain the Web site, and check to ensure product submissions are entered correctly and completely. Once that process is complete, the manufacturer can market those products to purchasers as EPEAT registered. To verify that the tool works, the EPEAT organization will randomly select a subset of qualified products each year to verify their qualification. The criteria were developed to ensure that EPEAT is a balanced and comprehensive tool that covers multiple environmental attributes throughout the products lifecycle. EPEAT was meant to establish a leadership standard, so the criteria are stringent enough to promote better environmental design, manufacture and end-of-life management, while reflecting existing technologies and technical limitations so that a supply of EPEAT products will be available to purchasers. All the criteria needed to be measurable or quantifiable, so there was no question about subjective judgments in the registration process. The draft criteria address eight key areas: reduction/elimination of environmentally sensitive materials; materials selection; design for end of life; product longevity; lifecycle extension; end-of-life management; corporate performance; and packaging. Most criteria refer to environmental performance characteristics of the specific product (which is defined as chassis and marketing model). To register a product, manufacturers select

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those criteria that apply to that particular product. In addition to the product-specific criteria, there are several that address general corporate programs, such as having a corporate environmental policy.
NEXT STEPS FOR EPEAT The development team completed its work in November 2004. It established a smaller implementation team to manage the transition of EPEAT from the development phase into full implementation. The main task remaining is to select a host organization (or organizations) that will take on the task of implementing the EPEAT system. That organization will be expected to conduct a public review process for the current criteria, launch the system and register products by early 2006. The development team also gave clear direction that the host organization should regularly revise the existing criteria to reflect changing technology, and add new products to EPEAT. Some factors being considered in the selection of the host organization include whether or not the it should be an official standard setting body; whether the standard development function and certification and validation functions should be separated, and the ability of the host organization to support a robust tool. The implementation team expects to select a host

organization or organizations by mid-2005. In the meantime, the Web-based registration tool is currently under development. Taken as a whole, the EPEAT systemthe criteria, data and documentation requirements, manufacturer agreements, processes for after-market verification, and commitments to future updates and extensionswill provide purchasers with a simple and verifiable program for the selection of environmentally sustainable products. In addition, the criteria will provide a single, practical system for manufacturers to demonstrate the environmental performance of their products. The overall EPEAT result carefully balances stakeholder concerns and promotes overall environmental improvement. The EPEAT stakeholders request the EPEAT package be followed in its entirety. The EPEAT criteria are designed to be used as a comprehensive whole. The development team strongly recommends that users of the EPEAT tool do not selectively pick and choose among the EPEAT criteria or amend or modify their potential product scope or application. Doing so would weaken the impact and results of the overall EPEAT process. John Katz is pollution prevention coordinator with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9. Wayne Rifer is the EPEAT project manager with Rifer Environmental. Allen R. Wilson is with Intel Corp.