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Manufacturers should be able to demonstrate that they have a commitment to environmental good practice, and that their equipment has been designed with environmental impacts in mind.
Most ICT equipment available in New Zealand is manufactured overseas, so there is limited opportunity to influence the design of the equipment. However, organisations purchasing ICT equipment should require suppliers to provide information on the steps being taken by the manufacturer to reduce the environmental impact of their products. In some regions of the world, such as Europe and North America, governments are increasingly regulating the manufacturing process to reduce waste, and New Zealand customers can benefit from this.
Manufacturers are also starting to adopt Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which recognises an obligation to consider the interests of customers, employees, shareholders, communities, and ecological considerations in all aspects of their operations. This obligation is seen to extend beyond their statutory obligation to comply with legislation.
The Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) is the EU voluntary instrument which acknowledges organisations that improve their environmental performance on a continuous basis. EMAS registered organisations are legally compliant, run an environment management system and report on their environmental performance through the publication of an independently verified environmental statement. They are recognised by the EMAS logo, which guarantees the reliability of the information provided.
Specify suppliers who have environmental good practice systems that meet the ISO 14000 / ISO 14001 series standards, or EMAS and CSR reporting, as part of their business practices.
In January 2003 the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union issued an RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) Directive 2002/95/EC on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment, and Directive 2002/96/EC on waste electrical and electronic equipment.6 The two directives were designed to tackle the fast-increasing waste stream of electrical and electronic equipment.
Directive 2002/96/EC requires increased recycling of electrical and electronic equipment to limit the total quantity of waste going to final disposal. It also requires producers to take responsibility for taking back and recycling electrical and electronic equipment. This is intended to provide incentives for manufacturers to design electrical and electronic equipment in an environmentally more efficient way, which takes waste management aspects fully into account. Consumers should be able to return their equipment free of charge.
In order to prevent the generation of hazardous waste, Directive 2002/95/EC requires the substitution of various heavy metals (lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium) and brominated flame retardants (polybrominated biphenyls [PBB] or polybrominated diphenyl ethers [PBDE]) in new electrical and electronic equipment put on the market from 1 July 2006. The directive does, however, provide for some exemptions, including lead in the glass of CRTs and mercury in lamps for flat-panel displays.
Although RoHS compliance has not been legislated in New Zealand, many other countries are following the European Union’s lead, some with their own variations (as in China),7 and it is widely expected that RoHS will become a world-wide standard. There is no recognised logo for RoHS but manufacturers have chosen their own way to display compliance with the EU RoHS Directive.8
State a preference for compliance with the RoHS EU Directive 2002/95/EC and request that the product manufacturer verifies the product to be RoHS compliant with EU Directive 2002/95/EC.
In 1999 a computer supplier announced the world’s first desktop PC using 100 per cent recycled plastic in all the plastic parts.9 However, it appears this was not commercially sustainable, and the company’s 2006 Corporate Responsibility Report states that 28 per cent (by weight) of all plastic resins contain recycled plastic content, with a net recycled plastic content weight representing 8.1 per cent of total purchases (against a corporate goal of 5 per cent).10 The EU RoHS Directive precludes the use of some recycled materials because of the use of substances such as flame-retardant bromides.
State a preference for recycled-content materials and ask suppliers to state their corporate goals and achievements in using recycled plastic content.
ENERGY STAR® is a programme started by the United States government in 199211 to promote energy-efficient consumer products. It has become an international energy efficiency mark utilised in the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and Asia. In New Zealand it is administered and promoted by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA).12
In New Zealand, the ENERGY STAR mark identifies the most efficient computers and imaging equipment, heat pumps, TVs, DVD players, audio equipment, washing machines and dishwashers. The ENERGY STAR website lists qualified products available in New Zealand13.
ENERGY STAR specifications are regularly reviewed. In 2007, new specifications have been introduced for computers and imaging equipment, (copiers, fax machines, mailing machines, multi-function devices (MFDs), printers and scanners). For example, the new desktop computer specification requires 80 per cent or greater AC power supply efficiency. Power management states include idle (operating system running but no programs), sleep (nothing is running but the computer can wake up fast and start) and stand-by (an off condition where about two watts of power are used).
The New Zealand ENERGY STAR website is updated regularly with new content and lists of qualified products.
Specify ENERGY STAR compliance and ensure conformance with the latest ENERGY STAR computers and imaging equipment specifications. Specify computers, monitors and integrated computer-monitor systems that meet ENERGY STAR Version 4.0 and are configured for automatic energy-saving features, as per current ENERGY STAR specifications.
Desktop printers and multi-function devices can now default to duplex printing (printing both sides), which reduces the amount of paper used for printing documents. “Secure print” functionality also enables users to send a file to any printer on the network, but the device holds the print operation until the user enters a PIN code at the device, enabling the file to be printed. Using this function can help reduce the amount of waste printing when documents are sent to the printer but are never retrieved, or are accidentally sent to print more than once.
Specify duplex printing and secure print functionality. Set as default on all devices.
Liquid crystal displays (LCDs) consume about half the power of an equivalent-sized cathode ray tube (CRT) screen. LCDs also have direct user benefits in terms of saving desk space, and they are better for your health. CRT monitors radiate three electron beams that are continually refreshing the entire screen 60 to 85 times each second. Although your brain doesn’t register the constant refreshing, your eyes do, and they have to work harder to absorb the information. LCD monitors don’t refresh in this way: pixels are constantly on or off, which greatly reduces eye fatigue and strain. An LCD monitor also generates less heat than a CRT, lessening the air conditioning loads in an office.
Specify LCD monitors.
Computer equipment often comes packaged in materials that cannot be reused, separated or recycled. Materials such as polystyrene are generally made without recycled content, and in most New Zealand communities are currently non-recyclable. Excessive packaging is also wasteful, and paper manuals and disks packaged with each computer often add to the waste. Suppliers should be encouraged to minimise the amount of packaging, and to provide a take-back option for reuse or recycling if the buyer is unable to reuse or recycle it. For example, manuals can be provided already installed on the computer to read online. Environmentally sustainable options are encouraged by a voluntary code of practice under the government/industry Packaging Accord,14 and preference could be given to suppliers who are signatories to this Accord.
Specify packaging made of recycled content that is also recyclable in New Zealand, and take-back and recycling of all packaging as an option if local recycling arrangements do not meet needs.
In some countries, certification bodies have been established to evaluate and compare equipment based on its environmental attributes. For example, EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, see www.epeat.net) is used to evaluate products in the USA. Products are evaluated against performance criteria and awarded a bronze, silver or gold registration. In January 2007 President Bush signed an Executive Order mandating federal agencies to buy EPEAT-registered products.
Other recognised certification labels for ICT equipment, which also include a third party check (as opposed to the monitored self-claim of EPEAT), include TCO (www.tcodevelopment.com), Nordic Swan (www.svanen.nu/Eng/) and the EU Eco-label (www.eco-label.com). The EU Eco-label “flower” on computers guarantees:
reduced energy consumption during use and stand-by
limited use of substances harmful to the environment and health
reduced use of natural resources by encouraging recycling
an extended product lifetime through easy upgrades
reduced solid waste production through a take-back policy.
The New Zealand Ecolabelling Trust operates, on behalf of the Government, the Environmental Choice NZ eco-label. This is a voluntary, multiple-life-cycle, impact-specification-based programme to recognise efforts made by manufacturers to reduce the environmental impacts of their products and provide a credible and independent guide for consumers.15 The Trust has published specifications for around 30 product categories, including copying machines, printers, fax machines and multifunction devices (EC-24-05) and personal computers (EC-27-05).
There are also voluntary product declarations, such as ECMA-370. This standard specifies environmental attributes and measurement methods for ICT and consumer electronics products according to known regulations, standards, guidelines and currently accepted practices.16
It includes a company environmental profile as well as environmental product attributes, and together these provide a comprehensive “eco declaration”. Unlike the life-cycle assessment eco-labels above, product declarations are self-claim. They provide data relevant to environmental impact data, but have not been compared against a standard set by an independent party.
Request some form of environmental certification, whether from an independent agency or in the form of a recognised voluntary product declaration.
Planned obsolescence and design-for-disposal use up natural resources and cause waste. Spare parts and maintenance support should be available for the life of the equipment. Suppliers should state the expected life in years.
Require spare parts and service to be available for the expected life of the equipment. Require information on the expected life of the equipment.
Some manufacturers are experimenting with snap-in, snap-out assemblies. Equipment that can be easily disassembled using universally available tools reduces the cost of recycling.
State a preference for equipment that can be easily disassembled.
The Government’s Waste Strategy aims to encourage producer responsibility and product stewardship, whereby suppliers take responsibility for the end-of-life disposal of equipment they manufacture. One option is a take-back scheme. Equipment leases are the most straightforward take-back option, whereby purchasers are effectively buying a computing “service” rather than a piece of hardware. While this is an attractive option from an e-waste management point of view, some organisations view leasing as a more expensive option than purchasing.
An approach adopted in the USA is to require suppliers to offer, at the time of purchase, a take-back or recycling service that meets the Environmental Protection Agency standards defined in the Plug-In to eCycling Guidelines for Materials Management.17 These guidelines apply to Plug-In partners who, through contracts or other arrangements, utilise reuse, refurbishment, recycling or disposal services. Plug-In partners take appropriate due diligence measures to ensure that downstream facilities and operations use practices that are consistent with the guidelines. Areas covered by the guidelines include:
priority given to reuse and refurbishment
landfill or incineration as a last resort
legal compliance with transportation, processing and management
legal compliance with any materials exported
licensed recycling facilities
proper business records of all recycled equipment
safeguarding of occupational and environmental health in the recycling process.
All suppliers should be able to offer cost-effective asset disposal and product end-of-life management services, either directly or in partnership with local refurbishers/recyclers.
Require supplier take-back, reuse or a recycling service for equipment being replaced or upgraded.
6 Directives of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 January 2003 on (1) Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive 2002/96/EC; and (2) Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment – Directive 2002/95/EC. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/weee/index_en.htm.
8 There is no single internationally agreed symbol, label or mark for RoHS compliance, and as a result many products will not have an identifiable logo. It is therefore important to request that the product manufacturer verifies the product to be RoHS compliant. This verification method may vary from one manufacturer to another.
9 IBM Launches World’s First Desktop PC with 100% Recycled Plastic Resin, 1 March 1999. http://www.ibm.com/ibm/environment/news/epro.shtml.
10 IBM Corporate Responsibility Report 2006. http://www.ibm.com/ibm/responsibility/pdfs/IBM_CorpResp_2006.pdf.
12 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) www.eeca.govt.nz
16 ECMA-370 Standard. http://www.ecma-international.org/publications/standards/Ecma-370.htm.