Evaluation of Environmentally-Sensitive Material Content in IT Products (DfE 1)

Over the past several years, increased attention has been placed upon the potential environmental impacts of IT products.  Largely due to the tremendous growth of electronics used in our every-day lives, environmental concerns have been raised regarding materials contained in electronic devices (e.g. lead solder), the power that electronic devices consume, and the growing number of electronic devices that end up in our waste streams.  Both voluntary and regulatory measures have been taken to address some of these concerns.

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Idea Information

Background: 

Over the past several years, increased attention has been placed upon the potential environmental impacts of IT products.  Largely due to the tremendous growth of electronics used in our every-day lives, environmental concerns have been raised regarding materials contained in electronic devices (e.g. lead solder), the power that electronic devices consume, and the growing number of electronic devices that end up in our waste streams.  Both voluntary and regulatory measures have been taken to address some of these concerns.  Examples include:

Material Restrictions – EU Restriction on Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive
Energy – US Energy Star program
End of Life Electronics – EU Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE)

Largely, the IT industry has been very proactive in examining the environmental impacts of their products and taking steps to minimize these impacts.  On environmental issues, IT companies are some of the most proactive in the world.  Numerous voluntary efforts are underway to minimize the environmental footprint of electronics including: development of recycling organizations and solutions, lead-free product roadmaps, design for environment standards, and energy efficient technologies.

Definition Information

Approach: 

In some cases, however, environmentally friendly design is driven by perception rather than data.  There is an opportunity to identify and resolve lingering questions related to Design for Environment (DfE).

For example:

-What is the true material content of an IT product and its subassemblies?
-Do any of the materials cause problems in recycling?  If so, which ones and how much is acceptable?
-Do any of the materials pose a potential health issue at end of life?  If so, which ones and how much is acceptable?

The purpose of the HDPUG DfE project was to assess the material content of common IT products, leading to the development of data that could serve as the foundation for making future DfE decisions.

OBJECTIVES

The key objective of the study is to support development of DfE guidelines by identifying, researching and addressing key data gaps in making current design decisions.  In order to accomplish this purpose, the DfE project was separated into two phases:

 Phase I:
Identify materials that make-up a “typical” IT product.  For materials that pose environmental risk, what replacements, if any, are available.

Phase II: From that data gathered in Phase I, identify specific DfE projects or actions that can be taken to further evaluate the environmental footprint of IT products or help to minimize this footprint (not the scope of DfE 1).

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