Lead also is rarely used any more, according to GEC director Jeff Omelchuk. "The first massive [source of lead in electronics] is lead in glass in [cathode-ray tube] monitors. When was the last time you bought a CRT monitor? Technology has moved us away from that one," Omelchuk says. It is "still a huge issue in e-waste but, from a new design perspective, that source of lead is rapidly diminishing."
EPEAT-certified computers deliver energy savings as well, according to the report: 42.2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity over their life spans, which means 3.31 million metric tons fewer greenhouse gas emissions than their uncertified computing counterparts—the equivalent of taking 2.6 million cars off the road. If energy savings are factored in, EPEAT computers actually save money—$3.7 billion over their lifetimes compared to uncertified counterparts, the report says.
Consumers interested in seeing EPEAT ratings of particular brands can log onto the EPEAT Web site. But there's still the matter of printers, televisions, and 130 million cell phones discarded worldwide each year, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, which is focused on monitoring and solving environmental problems. Omelchuk says that EPEAT hopes to expand its programs to cover such devices as well in the near future.
Shipments of e-waste to Hong Kong and other ports may also become a thing of the past, he says, if manufacturers stick to one of EPEAT's guidelines that calls for them to offer to take back and recycle old computers.
"One of the 51 criteria requires manufacturers to offer to institutional purchasers to take the product back at the end of its life at a reasonable cost," Omelchuk says. Already, major U.S. computer makers like Hewlett-Packard are working on extending these programs to individuals as well. "Solving the e-waste problem is more about developing the appropriate infrastructure to recover the darn things simply for their intrinsic value."