This publication is no longer current or has been superseded.
These Guidelines provide advice to government agencies on how they can factor environmental considerations into their decisions when purchasing, using and disposing of information and communications technology (ICT) equipment. They should also be helpful to business users and others involved in purchasing and using ICT equipment, including the household sector.
The Guidelines draw on current good practice in New Zealand government agencies and businesses, as well as emerging practice in other countries. Major providers of ICT equipment have also been consulted, as they are facing increasing pressure from their customers and governments to take more account of environmental sustainability issues in the manufacture of their products.
Readers seeking a quick guide should refer to section 7, which summarises the advice contained in these Guidelines and provides directions to the relevant part of the text. Please note that the recommendations provided are not intended as comprehensive evaluation criteria. Clearly there will be trade-offs with many other factors, such as established supplier relationships and (of course) price.
The purpose of these Guidelines is to promote environmentally sustainable practices when buying, using and disposing of ICT equipment in New Zealand.
There is a growing concern, both within New Zealand and internationally, about the environmental and health problems associated with waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE). Computer monitors, components and circuit boards contain highly toxic substances such as lead, beryllium, mercury, cadmium and brominated flame retardants. Redundant desktop computers and their peripherals, especially cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors and television sets (TVs), are of major concern due to the significant amounts of lead they contain.
Exacerbating the problem, there has been a rapid growth in the number of computers and other electronic equipment during the last 10 to 15 years. A 2006 report on e-waste in New Zealand estimated that there are 16 million electronic devices currently in use, including 10 million CRTs, with nearly 1 million being added each year.1 Much of this equipment is now reaching the end of its life and is being disposed of in landfills in the absence of any other more environmentally sound methods. There are real concerns that if this practice continues there is a risk that in the future, hazardous substances will leach from landfills into surrounding land and waterways, polluting our environment and incurring major restoration costs. The prudent course of action is to eliminate this threat, even if it does not affect today’s generation.
The Government, through the Ministry for the Environment, is working with electronic equipment suppliers to find a long-term sustainable solution. In the meantime, these Guidelines are intended to provide some direction to users of this equipment by describing how they can contribute to environmental sustainability by modifying their practices when buying, using and disposing of ICT equipment.
Although the Guidelines have been structured to provide specific advice, we recognise that individual organisations will need to balance environmental considerations with other factors, such as functionality and, of course, costs. No attempt has been made to weight the various factors, as this will vary from organisation to organisation. The aim of the Guidelines is to increase the level of awareness of the growing problem of e-waste and inefficient ICT energy use, and encourage people with responsibilities for buying, using and disposing of ICT equipment to take whatever steps they can to reduce any negative environmental impacts.
These Guidelines cover the following ICT equipment:
hand-held devices (eg, PDAs - personal digital assistants).
Although the Guidelines cover buying, using, and disposing of ICT equipment, a particular focus is on the purchase of equipment, because users can exercise the most influence over a reduction of toxic materials in their purchase decisions. International pressures are driving major ICT suppliers and manufacturers to build greater sustainability into their equipment design and manufacturing processes, and New Zealand buyers can help by supporting suppliers that are making an effort in this regard.
The Guidelines also provide ‘good practice’ advice on how ICT equipment can be used in more environmentally sound ways, especially in terms of conserving energy and, in the case of printers, conserving paper.
The Ministry for the Environment is the central government agency with the designated lead role to assist government agencies to become more sustainable, and to take a leadership role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, waste minimisation and improving energy efficiency. Forty-eight agencies have formally signed up to a programme known as Govt3, covering the three pillars of sustainability – environmental, social and economic. The programme has four specific work areas:
procurement of office consumables and equipment
waste minimisation and recycling
For more information on this programme, please refer to http://www.mfe.govt.nz/issues/sustainable-industry/govt3/.
The New Zealand Waste Strategy (NZWS)2 also provides a context for these guidelines by addressing how government agencies and business can demonstrate leadership in minimising and managing waste. Obsolete computer equipment has well-documented adverse environmental and health effects when disposed of irresponsibly. The environment, government agencies and business can benefit from the thoughtful reuse or recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment.
Representatives from the television (TV) and information technology (IT) industries have also formed a working group3 to develop a product stewardship scheme for TV and IT waste. Although the details of the scheme are still being developed, the agreed underlying principle is for suppliers of equipment to take responsibility for the environmentally safe disposal of this equipment when it reaches the end of its life.
In February 2007 the Prime Minister, in her Statement to Parliament, reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to sustainability by recognising the government sector as a significant purchaser of services, and announcing the Government’s intention to use its purchasing power “to help drive innovation, cleaner production, and improved cost effectiveness over the whole life cycle of goods and services”.4
The Prime Minister also acknowledged the Government’s commitment to work with the Green Party on refinements to the Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill.5 This Bill puts in place provisions to decrease waste disposal, including a levy on industrial waste, targets for reducing waste in landfills, and implementing producer responsibility programmes and public procurement programmes for stimulating innovation in the development of markets for products and services that result in waste reduction.
These Guidelines are consistent with the clear policy directions from the Government and will help to promote effective waste disposal practices. However, the Guidelines will also be evaluated and reviewed by both the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry of Economic Development, with assistance from other government agencies buying and disposing of ICT equipment. The proposed contract clauses and tender processes will be tested in the marketplace with future requests for proposals (RFPs). An assessment of practices in government agencies and businesses is also proposed, to evaluate the effectiveness of the Guidelines in terms of sustainable use and equipment disposal, and to determine if any specific training or other forms of support are required for procurement officers or IT support personnel.
1 J MacGibbon, L Zwimpfer, e-Waste in New Zealand: Taking Responsibility for End-of-Life Computers and TVs, Ministry for the Environment, Wellington, 2006.
2 Ministry for the Environment, The New Zealand Waste Strategy: Towards Zero Waste and a Sustainable New Zealand, Ministry for the Environment, Wellington, 2002.
4 Rt. Hon Helen Clark Prime Minister’s Statement to Parliament, 13 February 2007 http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ViewDocument.aspx?DocumentID=28357
5 The Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill was introduced to Parliament in June 2006; the Local Government and Environment Select Committee is expected to report back to the House end of October 2007.