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Coalition Calls for EPEAT to Split From Industry Body

The Electronics TakeBack Coalition has accused industry organization IEEE of overpowering the process of how standards are developed for the Electronic Product Environmental Tool (EPEAT), a global registry that many consumers, governments and universities base their purchasing decisions on.

IEEE rules have given major electronics companies too much power, resulting in weak standards, according to a blog post by Electronics TakeBack Coalition national coordinator Barbara Kyle. The recent attempt to update outdated standards for computers magnified these problems, prompting the coalition to recommend EPEAT and IEEE part ways.

The coalition has called for the computer standard revision to be immediately moved away from IEEE and urged the EPA, an original funder of the process, to support the change.

IEEE officials did not respond to repeated attempts to reach them for comment.

IEEE is the standards development organization (SDO) under whose rules and structure the EPEAT standards have been developed. Any stakeholder can participate in the meetings and votes to develop these standards. However, the final balloting is done by dues-paying IEEE members only.

Once complete, manufacturers’ products are evaluated against these EPEAT standards, and graded as Bronze, Silver or Gold. EPEAT currently has two registries, one for computers and displays and one new imaging equipment category which opened for public view this month. A third environmental rating category for TVs has been finalized.

The Electronics TakeBack Coalition criticized IEEE’s recent decision stripping the EASC committee of its role as standards development overseer and replacing it with an appointed three-member oversight group that will develop policies and procedures for future EPEAT standards. The coalition claims IEEE took this action after EASC modified policies and procedures that would have diluted the power of major electronics manufacturers to create a more even playing field.

EPEAT was surrounded by controversy last summer when Apple withdrew its Macbook Pro with Retina display from the registry, and then reinstated it, leading to speculation that tough disassembly was behind Apple’s withdrawal from the standard.

In October, EPEAT verified that the Macbook Pro with Retina display met its standards. At the time, EPEAT said all ultrathin devices listed in its registry, including notebooks from Apple, Lenovo, Samsung and Toshiba, met the organization’s environmental criteria.

Correction: The second paragraph of this article previously referred to “EPEAT rules.” This should be “IEEE rules.”

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