Calls for e-waste management system via 'Take Back' policy and energy star rating

Friday, 13 June, 2008

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has called on the ICT industry and federal government to consider adopting a two-pronged policy approach to reduce the environmental effects of e-waste by introducing a 'Take Back' policy for domestic and commercial ICT manufacturers, and broadening the Energy Star Rating Standards for domestic household appliances to encompass a broad suite of lifestyle and office technology products.

“We are recommending a prevention and cure approach — encompassing a Take Back policy to help reduce and the volume of e-waste, and broadening of the government’s proposed Energy Rating System Policy to drive more energy-efficient technology products and assist in long-term reduction of emissions,” ACS president Kumar Parakala said.

Parkala acknowledged the federal government’s recent confirmation of the energy star rating system for appliances and some computer products, which was also a feature of the ACS Green Policy released in 2007, and said the ACS looks forward to further definition of the list of products required to conform to the new standards.

The ACS recommends the following approaches be taken into consideration to manage current and future environmental impacts of e-waste:

  • Manufacturer Take Back Policy — A program that requires ICT manufacturers to take back old ICT hardware when new hardware is purchased or upgraded. Old domestic and commercial hardware can be dismantled, reconditioned and recycled for future use by manufacturers.
  • Star Rating for Energy Efficiency — The energy star rating system is similar to the energy rating label system that allows consumers to compare the energy consumption of white goods such as refrigerators and washing machines. The ACS recommends the energy rating system is extended to cover commercial ICT equipment and a broad range of lifestyle technology equipment to place greater choice in the hands of the consumer and to drive the production of energy-efficient technologies.

The ACS’s proposed energy-efficient technologies for ICT commercial and domestic products include:

  • Server virtualisation — Recent software developments in virtualisation technology present an opportunity to significantly reduce the number of servers.
  • Desktop virtualisation — Using ultra-small, secure thin clients on desktops, linking the thin clients to their own virtual desktop machines residing on servers.
  • Integrated telephony — IP as telephony to potentially zero costs with the appropriate software.
  • Automated power control — Power-saving functions.
  • Work stations — Sleep mode to reduce energy costs.

“Action needs to start now, and the government's recent announcements and commitment to improving the level of energy efficiency within the ICT domestic and commercial product markets is a big step in the right direction. By introducing the Take Back and Energy Rating System Policies, we are one step closer to minimising the daily impact of ICT on the environment," said Parakala.

"We are calling on federal, state and territory governments to take action and lead the way by employing energy-efficient technologies in the workforce and continuing their commitment to fast track legislation for the Energy Rating System for ICT products. We will continue to push for legislation for the Take Back program, in a bid to reduce national environmental impacts from ICT products.

“Trained ICT professionals know how to build efficient systems which use less hardware and without installing new hardware to existing ICT products. It’s better to avoid installing hardware, then to later dispose of it and increase waste,” said Parakala.


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