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The PC Ecolabel Project

A project to develop EU Ecolabelling for personal computers is presently underway. The project, led by DG XI (Environment, nuclear safety and civil protection) of the European Commission, aims to establish objective criteria by which PCs may qualify for a European Ecolabel.

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A project to develop EU Ecolabelling for personal computers is presently underway. The project, led by DG XI (Environment, nuclear safety and civil protection) of the European Commission, aims to establish objective criteria by which PCs may qualify for a European Ecolabel.

The EU Ecolabel scheme is one element of a wider Community strategy aimed at promoting sustainable production and consumption. To date, criteria have been published for ten product groups and more than 45 products have been awarded the Ecolabel. The purpose of the scheme is to influence the market by guiding consumers toward products with a reduced environmental impact.

The award of the Ecolabel means that successful applicants are permitted to use the official flower logo on their approved product. The scheme is selective, with the label being awarded to products with the lowest environmental impact in a particular product range. Criteria for each product group are adopted by the Commission following consultation with environmental experts and experts in the specific area concerned.

Four key issues influencing the development of criteria for the ecolabelling of PCs have so far been identified:

- Non-European producers dominate the PC industry:
Seven of the top ten vendors of personal computers worldwide are US companies, the other three are Japanese. These companies dominate the European industry, and imports account for about three quarters of the market. Consultation will, therefore take more time, and more non-EU companies will be involved, than is usual;

- The product group is very broad:
There are seven basic types of PC and 13 microprocessor types. Possible combinations of PCs and peripherals literally run into millions;

- PCs are complex, rapidly changing products:
A typical PC consists of 1,000 to 1,500 components and 2,000 to 3,000 different materials. New products are introduced every six months. Companies move from concept to production in as little as six to eight months;

- Disposal practice varies widely by region:
End-of-life disposal is a key factor in the eco-impact of a PC. National rules for disposal of electronics are very different throughout the EU. A PC that does well in one country may do poorly in another. This must be considered in defining the life-cycle system.

A multi-national, multi-disciplinary team of analysts and researchers has been assembled to run the project. The first phase, the feasibility study, has recently been completed. This will be reviewed and discussed by the ad hoc working group which will meet 10 June 1997.

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