natural step breakfast

I attended a Natural Step breakfast this morning to talk about EPEAT and NEPSI (National Electronics Product Stewardship Initiative – The presentation was really good, speakers were excellent. The talk was very timely because Gov. Kulongoski is signing an e-waste bill this morning.

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The two presenters – Sego Jackson and Wayne Rifer – were both directly involved in NEPSI, which started in 2001 and made its final resolution in 2004. They talked quite bit about why NEPSI failed to produce a consensus or a national policy. The goal of the organization was to produce a framework for electronic products lifecycle management. In the end, no consensus was reached, and NEPSI was suspended. Sego Jackson suggested that this was in part because the industry representatives all believed that the system and regulations could not be voluntary.

On the bright side of things, legislation is being developed in many states requiring manufacturers to manage their own product and waste streams. This started (in 2006) with a very strong bill in Washington state. Here’s a page describing the status of various bills:

Here’s NW states status:

Sego Jackson had some harsh words for Apple and Steve Jobs. I guess Apple told NEPSI in 2001 to talk to them in 5 years, based on what Apple had observed about the regulation process that they had observed in Europe. After that, Apple wasn’t involved in the group at all.

The idea for EPEAT came out of some meetings Wayne had with an engineer at Intel. They wanted to create an incentive system to comply with IEEE 1680, which contains 51 requirements for environmental assessment of PC products. Ultimately, their were funded by an EPA grant and the website with the registry of products went live in June 2006.

Currently, there are four products that meet the highest (Gold) standard – and they all became gold in the last week or so. We used EPEAT to buy some HP systems (ranked silver!) for shipping recently. Apple has submitted many of their desktop products for review, and they pretty consistently rank Silver.

The presenters commented that the manufacturing process is where most of the energy is consumed for electronics. EPEAT ranking includes a look at the energy efficiency of the device while being used, but is much broader.

Both Sego and Wayne are very excited about recent developments – particularly the wave of legislation happening throughout the country. There’s a new focus on TVs and other non PC products. They did say there were some pretty big gaps in the consumer electronics arena, but that some NGOs were starting to look into those issues, and the problem of chemical identification and labeling.

Ron Wyden is now leading an effort to form a national policy, although Sego Jackson commented that the proposed legislation waters down some of what the states have done.

I had a great time and ate a really good cinnamon roll.