First U.S. Voluntary Standard for Computers Established

EPA announced on May 10 a new voluntary performance standard to help large computer buyers make environmentally sound purchases -- and reduce the environmental impact of desktop and laptop computers and monitors they buy, use and discard.

The new standard offers criteria in eight categories -- material selection; environmentally sensitive materials; design for end of life; end-of-life management; energy conservation; product longevity and life-cycle extension; packaging; and corporate performance.

The new standard is the IEEE (Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standards Association) 1680TM "Standard for Environmental Assessment of Personal Computer Products." IEEE 1680 and its product registration and verification system are part of the Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), a project funded through a grant by EPA and managed by the Green Electronics Council (GEC). EPEAT promotes continuous improvement in the environmental design of electronic products and informs purchasers of the environmental criteria of electronic products.

Representatives from state and local government, the electronics industry, manufacturers, academia environmentalists, and purchasers, developed the new standard with EPA support. The standard was approved through the IEEE standards consensus-based process and recognized by the American National Standards Institute.

The GEC will maintain a registry of computer products that meet IEEE 1680 criteria, starting in June 2006. GEC will verify that the information provided by manufacturers is accurate and up-to-date.

Federal agencies and private purchasers already have referenced the new standard in more than $21 billion of IT equipment contracts and requests for proposals. Most of these procurements indicate that the agencies will buy EPEAT-registered products as soon as they become available.

EPA has estimated that over the next five years, purchases of EPEAT registered computers will result in reductions of:

  • More than 4 million pounds of hazardous waste
  • More than 1 million pounds of non-hazardous waste
  • More than 200,000 megawatt-hour (MWh) of energy -- enough to power 2 million homes.

More information on EPEAT can be found at

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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