The custodian of the e-cycling
ratings regimen must deal with two challenges in its second
year rigor and scope
If voluntary electronics recycling ever catches up with
technology equipment as a pervasive feature in the United
States, some of the credit will go to the Electronic Product
Environmental Assessment Tool (Epeat).
Epeat's role is to keep score on how
successful manufacturers are at reducing or eliminating
hazardous substances, at making recycling easy and at saving
energy. President Bush issued an executive order earlier this
year discouraging federal agencies from buying unrated computer
equipment within Epeat's scope desktop, notebook, monitor or
Epeat's frequently expanded ratings list
reached its first anniversary July 19 with around 600 models on
its roster. But there's no time to celebrate. The custodian of
the project, Green Electronics Council, Portland, Ore., must
deal with two challenges in its second year rigor and
A verification program, to see whether
producers' claims to have met standards are true, was scheduled
to complete its first round in July. Three verification cycles
per year are envisioned for a shifting sample of equipment
types and manufacturers. The first cycle is expected to lead to
some deletions from the roster. The identities of re-graded or
flunked models won't be publicized this time, but in the second
round and beyond the rejected claims and the names of the
companies will be made public.
The other challenge facing Epeat is whether
to broaden its scope. A proposal on the table calls for the
development of criteria for rating printers and
A three-year, $375,000 grant from the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency serves as seed money, but
Epeat's agenda is to become self-supporting on the basis of
fees from the manufacturers it rates. To be listed on the
roster entails a set of minimum requirements. How a model
scores on optional criteria gives it a rating of bronze, silver
Nobody scored gold until June 4, when a
Hewlett-Packard Co. desktop made it across the hurdle. Dell
Inc. quickly followed with two desktops and a notebook.
Most of the listed models (90 percent) are
listed as being easy to separate different types of plastics
when the equipment is discarded. Keeping the mercury in light
sources below a mildly ambitious threshold is attained by 87
percent of the models scored on that standard (desktops don't
count). Batteries free of lead, cadmium and mercury? That
standard gets 58 percent conformity. No intentionally added
cadmium? Barely half qualify on that at 53 percent. No
intentionally added mercury in light sources? That's claimed
for 10 percent of the models. Elimination of intentionally
added lead in certain applications 4 percent. Use of plastics
from biological rather than petroleum-based raw materials only
1 percent (six monitors made by Philips Electronics Ltd.).
Only 20 percent of companies audit recycling
vendors to be reasonably sure that dangerous materials don't
get processed or dumped in low-income countries or regions.
For some of these norms, equipment makers'
research efforts have been driven by the regulatory clout of
the European Union's Restriction on Hazardous Substances
What Epeat provides is an overview on how
comprehensively those improvements are passed along to U.S.