Case Study: State of California Draft Guidelines for the Procurement, Use and End-of-Life Management of Electronic Equipment
To help California state agencies reduce the environmental and human health impacts of electronic equipment, Green Seal and the Center for Clean Products and Clean Technologies have developed guidelines for the procurement, use and end-of-life management practices of electronic equipment. By providing specific criteria addressing three broad environmental attributes, energy efficiency, materials efficiency, and toxics reduction, state agencies will not only be able improve the environmental health impacts of electronic equipment, but they will also reduce operating and management expenses.
The procurement stage is where the state has the greatest ability to influence and improve the environmental and cost performances of the other two operational phases, use and end-of-life management. Once a product is bought, it is impossible to make it more energy efficient or reduce its toxicity levels. As such, it is critical to develop purchasing specs, which give preference to manufacturers who design cleaner electronic products that are taken back by the manufacturer at the end of life, to be reused and recycled in a cradle-to-cradle system.
The recommended checklist below for the State of California provides businesses with a good place to start in terms of developing comprehensive purchasing specs that will demand electronic products that are cleaner throughout their life cycle.
Recommended Checklist for the Procurement of Electronic Equipment
Promote Energy Efficiency
Promote Materials Efficiency
Promote Toxics Reduction
It is quite possible that there might not be products on the market today that meet all of the criteria outlined in the above guidelines, particularly in regards to the reduction of toxic substances. At minimum, manufacturers should provide full disclosure about the toxic materials in their products, in addition to commitments and timelines of when these materials will be substituted for safer alternatives. What every manufacturer can do today, however, is take back their products at the end of life and invest in research and development strategies that will lead to products that are free of persistent bioaccumulative substances and other harmful materials. State procurement programs, along with other large-scale buyers, such as universities, hospitals, and major corporations have the ability to shift the market for cleaner electronic products through environmentally friendly procurement programs that build on the criteria established by Green Seal and University of Tennessee for the State of California.