Federal officials have allayed concerns that an executive order regarding environmentally friendly electronics purchasing will erode use of the EPEAT program.
President Obama’s March 2015 executive order on sustainable-product purchasing excluded an explicit requirement that federal agencies give purchasing preference to electronics meeting the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) standards.
That omission concerned EPEAT advocates, who feared the decision could lead to the erosion or demise of the standard.
But the implementing instructions, dated June 10, indicate nothing less stringent than EPEAT would be acceptable.
“Unlike prior executive orders, E.O. 13693 does not include a specific reference to (EPEAT). However, EPEAT is currently the only tool available to achieve the electronic stewardship mandates of (the order),” the implementing instructions state, in part. “Any future tools shall meet or exceed current levels of sustainable and environmental performance. E.O. 13693 continues to require that agencies promote electronic stewardship throughout the acquisition lifecycle and ensure a procurement preference for environmentally sustainable electronic products.”
Robert Frisbee, CEO of the Green Electronics Council, said the language reduces concerns the executive order would lead to the growth of weaker standards. EPEAT is a program of the Green Electronics Council.
“What we had been concerned about was that a transition away from an outright EPEAT mandate might start a race to the bottom,” Frisbee told E-Scrap News. “This EPEAT-or-better reference will keep that from happening.”
He wouldn’t say the implementing instructions completely fix the issue, “but it moves us forward in a creative and, we think very useful way.”
“It will put us on our toes but it also gives us the opportunity to continue to strengthen the EPEAT system,” he said. “As our system increases in strength, I think others will have to follow suit.”
Among other aims, EPEAT establishes standards for product longevity and recycling by encouraging design that allows for cost-effective reuse and recycling.
Barbara Kyle, national coordinator of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, commended Kate Brandt, the federal environmental executive in the White House, and her team for including clarifying language.
In April, Kyle wrote a letter to Brandt asking for changes to the order.