EPEAT - an American ecolabel system for IT equipment - discussion on restriction of halogenated flame retardants

In 2007, an Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) for desktop computers, notebook computers and monitors was created. The idea was to develop a system that helps purchasers evaluate, compare and select electronic products based on their environmental attributes on a voluntary basis (http://www.epeat.net).

Desktops, laptops and monitors that meet 23 required environmental performance criteria may be registered in EPEAT by their manufacturers in 40 countries worldwide. Registered products are rated Gold, Silver or Bronze depending on the percentage of 28 optional criteria they meet above the baseline criteria. EPEAT operates an ongoing verification program to assure the credibility of the registry.

EPEAT has won broad acceptance by purchasers (over $40 billion of IT budgets) and manufacturers (over 300 products from nearly all major manufacturers) and shown the success of using environmental standards in the electronic products industry. It has also established a model for standards that could be developed for other products as well.

The operation of the EPEAT system and the environmental criteria for each of its product categories are contained in the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) 1680 family of public standards. IEEE 1680, the "Standard for Environmental Assessment of Personal Computer Products" supplies environmental guidelines for institutional purchasing decisions involving desktop and laptop computers and monitors. It offers criteria in eight categories - materials 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 existing 1680 Standard is currently under revision and separated into two standards:

  • 1680 Standard for Environmental Assessment of Electronic Products - The Umbrella Standard for the new 1680 Family of Standards for electronic products.
  • 1680.1 Standard for Environmental Assessment of Personal Computer Products including Laptop Computers, Desktop Personal Computers, and Personal Computer Monitors. This Standard will consist of environmental criteria and other materials that relate specifically to personal computer products.
  • In addition, new standards are to be developed for imaging devices, televisions, servers, and mobile devices (PDAs, cell phones, etc.)

The environmental performance criteria which are currently being discussed include the reduction or elimination of environmental sensitive materials such as heavy metals (cadmium, mercury, lead, hexavalent chromium), reduction of substances on the European Union REACH candidates list of Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs), as well as organohalogens. Organohalogens are defined as brominated (BFR) and chlorinated flame retardants (CFR), and PVC. The following requirements are suggested:

  • mandatory requirement: External plastic casings and casing parts greater than 25 grams shall be free of BFRs, CFRs, and PVC. Exceptions are:
    • Materials containing 25% or more post-consumer recycled content are permitted higher thresholds of bromine and chlorine
    • Cables
  • BFR / CFR free printed circuit board laminates are optional as well as fully BFR / CFR / PVC free products