EPEAT, the green electronics rating system based on the IEEE 1680 family of Environmental Assessment Standards, has now added printers, copiers and other imaging equipment to its list of green PCs and Displays.
EPEAT stands for Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, although now that the organisation is well established the full name is rarely used. For more than six years, EPEAT ratings have helped companies, governments and consumers compare and purchase greener PCs and monitors.
To be added to the EPEAT registry of products, an imaging device must meet at least 33 required environmental performance criteria. Products are rated Bronze, Silver or Gold depending on how many of the 26 additional optional criteria it meets.
Assessment is made on a lifecycle basis, addressing the elimination of toxic substances, the use of recycled and recyclable materials, their design for recycling, product longevity, energy efficiency, corporate performance and packaging, among other criteria. The rating criteria were developed through a consensus of representatives from the environmental, research, governmental and manufacturing sectors.
The EPEAT registry now includes imaging equipment from seven manufacturers: Canon, Dell, Epson, HP, Lexmark, Ricoh and Xerox, and two others – Konica Minolta and Samsung – have begun the process of registering products. These nine manufacturers represent at least 80% of the global market for copiers, printers, scanners and multifunction devices.
The potential impact of this extension to imaging products is clear from EPEAT’s success to date with PCs and displays. Compared to products that do not meet EPEAT criteria, the more than 120 million registered notebooks, desktops, and monitors purchased worldwide in 2011 will, during their lifetime:
Reduce use of primary materials by 4.4 million metric tons, equivalent to the weight of 14 Empire State Buildings
Reduce use of toxic materials, including mercury, by 1,381 metric tons, equivalent to the weight of 266 elephants
Eliminate use of enough mercury to fill 1,007,761 household mercury thermometers
Avoid the disposal of 74,082 metric tons of hazardous waste, equivalent to the weight of seven Eiffel Towers
Eliminate the equivalent of more than 76,262 US households’ annual solid waste—50,976 metric tons
Review: EPEAT has been a huge green IT success to date and the expansion to imaging is welcome. It seems to have been a struggle getting to this point because of the variety of devices the new certification covers.
The success of the certification is largely thanks to the support of the US government. In 2007 an executive order was issued requiring federal agencies to ensure that 95% of their purchase requirements were met with EPEAT-registered products. Since 2008 EPEAT registration has been part of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) requirements for computers and displays.
Governments internationally have also pointed to EPEAT as a preferred standard for equipment purchases – seven other countries use EPEAT’s PC/display rating system as an environmental requirement. EPEAT has helped the international growth with its own expansion in recent years. The certification now covers more than forty countries and more than 50 participating manufacturers around the world.
Perhaps the biggest demonstration of the influence that EPEAT now has came in July last year when Apple decided to withdraw the EPEAT environmental certification from all its products. The suggestion at the time was that Apple felt its designs made it impossible to comply. There was loud criticism (and at least one announcements that Apple products would be dropped) and a week later the company said it had made a mistake and reversed the decision.