From the book: Green Technology Strategies

Materials Use

Energy reduction is only part of making a Green ICT system, there is also the issue of use of materials and hazardous substances.


Electronic waste ("e-waste") is the material from unwanted electrical or electronic devices. Some e-waste can be sold for recycling and is described as "commodity" to distinguish it from "waste" which can't be reused. E-waste may contain toxic material is mostly not biodegradable.

Many countries have regulations covering e-waste, including bans from landfill in Europe. Metals, including gold and silver make some e-waste commercially viable to reprocess.

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal (Basel Convention) is an international treaty limiting the movement hazardous waste between nations, particularly from rich to poor nations. Australia, the EU and many developed nations apart from the USA have ratified the treaty.

Australian Regulations

Australia implemented the Basel convention with the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989. This regulates export, import and transit of hazardous waste within Australia. The 'Criteria for the export and import of used electronic equipment' assumes that electronic equipment is hazardous waste, until shown otherwise. Equipment to be re-used (after repair, refurbishment or upgrading) are not considered hazardous waste. Australian states have regulations on the disposal of hazardous waste.

Voluntary Programs

Byteback is an Australian partnership between Sustainability Victoria, the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), Apple, Canon, Dell, Epson, Fujitsu, Fuji-Xerox, HP, IBM, Lenovo, and Lexmark. It allows individuals and small businesses to deposit unwanted computer equipment at Victorian locations. Similar programs in other states.


The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) is a system for evaluating electronic products against 51 environmental criteria from the US based Green Electronics Council.

The criteria are contained in "Standard for Environmental Assessment of Personal Computer Products, Including Laptop & Desktop Computers & Monitors", IEEE 1680-2006.

Products are ranked in three tiers:

  1. Bronze: Meets 23 required criteria
  2. Silver: Meets all required criteria plus at least 50% of the optional criteria
  3. Gold: Meets all required criteria plus at least 75% of the optional criteria

Materials criteria are categorised as:

  1. Reduction/elimination of environmentally sensitive materials,
  2. Materials selection,
  3. Design for end of life,
  4. Product longevity/life cycle extension,
  5. End of life management, and
  6. Packaging.

Energy conservation using US EPA Energy Star and Corporate performance with adoption of ISO 14001 are also criteria.

Government Procurement using EPEAT

US Government agencies are required to procure products which meet 95 percent of the EPEAT criteria under "Executive Order: Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management". The Green Electronic Council have detailed the claimed "Environmental Benefits of 2007 EPEAT Purchasing" (Green Electronic Council, June 2008).

The Electronics Environmental Benefits Calculator (University of Tennessee, April 2008) was used to assess EPEAT. For 2007 reduction in use of primary materials was assessed at 75.5 tons, recudtion in toxic materials of 3,220 tons, and avoidance in the disposal of 124,000 metric tons of hazardous waste.

The Calculator was sponsored by the U.S. EPA and estimates benefits, such as green house gas reductions, waste avoided, mercury eliminated for EPEAT purchases. Metrics used:

  1. Energy savings
  2. Greenhouse gas reduction
  3. Solid waste reduction
  4. Primary material savings
  5. Hazardous waste reduction
  6. Toxic material reduction
  7. Air emissions
  8. Water emissions

The Calculator is provided as an Excel spreadsheet. Purchasing data input is the number and type of EPEAT products purchased. The tool calculates the environmental benefits from the EPEAT products in comparison with an average non-EPEAT product.


Read now:

  1. Responsible Actions - Product Stewardship (Lecture 1), E-Waste Education Courses, Natural Edge Project, 2008. Note: it is not necessary to undertake the "Required Reading" listed in the Natural Edge notes.
  2. EPEAT Background, Green Electronics Council, 2006. The EPEAT Criteria, Green Electronics Council, 2006.
  3. Environmental Benefits of 2007 EPEAT Purchasing, Green Electronic Council, June 2008.
  4. Electronics Environmental Benefits Calculator, University of Tennessee, April 2008


  1. E-waste policies in your organisation: Identify any e-waste or other ICT materials use policies in your organisation (or an organisation you are familiar with) in two paragraphs. Include references to any publicly released policies (with links to any web based information).
  2. Materials and energy use issues with donating old computers: The Australian Computer Society runs a PC recycling Special Interest Group in Adelaide, the ACS PC Recycling SIG. Volunteers recondition old donated computers for use by non-profit organisations and worthy individual. What materials and energy use issues would arise with donating old corporate computers? Are there any materials or energy implications for donation of new equipment?

From the book: Green Technology Strategies

This book is about how to reduce carbon emissions and achieve other environmental benefits by using computers and telecommunications technology. It is designed to be used within an online course for professionals, using mentored and collaborative learning techniques.

Title: Green Technology Strategies: Using computers and telecommunications to reduce carbon emissions

Copyright © , 2009

Publisher: Tomw Communications, PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617, Australia. Website:

New edition available: ICT Sustainability: Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future, September 2011.

These notes are used for the courses:

  1. Green ICT Strategies (ACS25): offered in the Postgraduate Program of Open Universities Australia and available from 2010 to students of Curtin University, Griffith University, Macquarie University, Monash University, RMIT University, Swinburne University and the University of South Australia,

  2. Green Technology Strategies: offered in the Computer Professional Education Program, Australian Computer Society (first run as "Green ICT Strategies" in February 2009), and

  3. Green Information Technology Strategies (COMP7310), in the Graduate Studies Select program, Australian National University (first run July 2009).

The notes were first published as an electronic and paperback book in 2009 (Green ICT, Tom Worthington, Tomw Communications, 2009). Students can download or print their own copy of the e-book from the course learning management system, which is likely to be more up to date.

Green Technology Strategies: Using computers and telecommunications to reduce carbon emissions by Tom Worthington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Australia License, except for institutions covered by a Copyright Agency Ltd Statutory Licence.