Dell and Hewlett-Packard (HP) hope to gain millions of dollars in government contracts now that they have listed dozens of their desktops, laptops and monitors in a database of environmentally sustainable IT products, the companies said Friday.
Starting Monday, IT buyers at government agencies and institutions will be able to search a database called EPEAT, the Electronics Products Environmental Assessment Tool, located at www.epeat.net.
Computer manufacturers can register their products at the site by certifying they have met the standards listed in IEEE 1680, a standard for environmentally sustainable electronics set by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, said Jeff Scott, director of the waste management division for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), during a conference call with reporters.
The process of building and disposing of PCs and monitors produces tons of cadmium, mercury and lead, which are poisonous for both ecology and public health when they leak into the environment.
Even while they sit on users' desks, inefficient devices waste millions of kilowatts of electricity, contributing to climate-changing greenhouse gases, said the Green Electronics Council, an industry group that created the database under an EPA grant.
So increasingly, state and federal contracts require PCs and peripherals that can be safely produced, efficiently operated and cleanly recycled. The new database is designed to make those products easy to find.
"If you want a greener laptop or desktop, you don't have to be an environmental engineer or a computer expert, you just have to specify EPEAT," Scott said.
The rewards for PC vendors can be huge. The state of Massachusetts alone requires EPEAT registration for products purchased in its $US70 million annual budget for IT hardware. EPEAT is also a condition in $US30 billion of federal contracts from the U.S. departments of Homeland Security, Defense, Interior, Energy and Commerce, as well as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration.
The promise of those contracts will drive PC vendors and consumers to become better environmental stewards, said Ed Pinero, head of the White House office of the federal environmental executive.
"By setting standards for manufacturers to follow, the marketplace itself becomes a catalyst for change to produce more environmentally sustainable products," Pinero said during the conference call.
Dell hopes to win some of those contracts by listing 28 products in the EPEAT database, including its OptiPlex desktops, Precision workstations (both desktop and mobile versions), Latitude notebooks and flat panel monitors, said Mark Schaffer, Dell's manager of worldwide environmental affairs.
HP has listed 32 products, including flat panel monitors and HP Compaq notebooks, tablets and desktops.
Apple Computer also made a bid to boost profits with green computers when it announced in April it would offer free recycling of customers' old PCs. Dell began a similar program in June.