the Personal Computer
of developing a Green Computer can best be understood in relation
to the impact of the IT industry on the environment and society.
||The Greenpeace web site (Click
Here) suggests that - by 2010 there will be 716 million
computers in use, including 178 million new users in China and
80 million in India. The breakneck speed of technological
developments - and their inbuilt obsolescence - is constantly
reducing the lifespan of PCs and peripherals. The average lifespan
of a PC, in 1997, was 6 years – but, by 2005, this had fallen
to only 2 years. This has resulted in a growing E-waste problem,
which has further escalated a serious environmental and social
The US exports 50%-80% of its electronic waste (as do most
industrialised countries) to less-developed countries that
do not have the infrastructure to recycle, manage or dispose
of this waste safely. This is having a significant impact
on the health and environmental sustainability of these regions
- and the situation is likely to get worse.
The development of a Green Computer - one that contains no
toxic waste and is relatively easy to reuse or recycle - is
a persistent dream for environmentally aware IT developers.
Over the past 16 years, a number of computer manufacturers
have claimed one or more of their products to be more or less
Some models have, indeed, secured one or more of the many energy
and environmental labels available on a world-wide basis. One notable
example is the Siemens Nixdorf PCD-4Ls (1993), which Siemens described
the as “the world’s first Green PC”. This model was produced
- “using recyclable materials and claimed to have an energy consumption
of up to 90% less than earlier PC’s, without any noticeable effect
on functionality and processing power”.
The manufacture of a Green Computer has also been a long-standing
aspiration of Multimedia Computer Systems Ltd. (MicroPro).
Paul Maher and Anne Galligan set up a small family company in 1991
and, inspired by a strong environmental ethos, MicroPro today employs
over 22 staff. The company set out to define and develop Europe’s
first Green Computer. From Rathfarnham in South Dublin, they manufacture
and retail their own range of computer systems, software packages,
networking and peripherals. They also provide a repair and maintenance
service, which has helped extend the operational lifetime of equipment
In 1999, the company sought and received support from Enterprise
Ireland - under the Environmentally Superior Products (ESP) Programme
(part-funded by European Regional Development Funds). As part of
this Programme, MicroPro was able to carry out a feasibility study
of the environmental, technical, legal, marketing and cost implications
of greening their current models. The Feasibility Study was carried
out by EMA International (Dublin) on their behalf.
This study examined a number of areas where improvement was possible,
|the extension of the operational life of the hardware,
via an upgradable chassis with modular interface design
|developing the assembly potential of the design
to increase recycling and reuse options – and
||increasing the energy efficiency of the current
In addition, a simplified Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) was undertaken
to establish and assess the opportunities for reducing environmental
impact - together with a review of the environmental performance
of competing PC manufacturers, to determine the existing status
of the market and a review of customer requirements, including the
importance of environmental performance. Compliance with the European
Eco-Label for PCs - as well as future legislative obligations -
was also ascertained, as well as suggestions on the technical and
cost implications of improvement.
The project culminated in 2000, with the development of a new model
- the MicroPro XPC - which incorporated most of these recommendations.
This model became MicroPro’s main production line, with about 200
machines manufactured every year.
||In 2001, Project HEATSUN was formed - as a Partnership
comprising 3 local authorities, 2 private companies and 2 social
Dublin City Council (Lead Partner) was awarded funding under the
LIFE Environment Programme for the development of an integrated
project based in the Greater Dublin region, to reduce, reuse and
recycle IT waste. The Project included a number of targets, which
were aimed at pre-empting the objectives of three European Directives
- the Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), the Reduction
of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) and the Energy Using Products (EuP)
Directives - as well as achieving added social value through training
and job creation.
The targets were -
||setting up 5 collection points for IT waste
||recycling 20,000 items of IT waste (prior to the
implementation of the WEEE Directive)
||reuse of 2,000 items of IT waste
||creation of 20 jobs and 20 vocational training
||development of a Green Computer
||development of a sustainable system for IT take-back
||public awareness and dissemination of the above.
The Work Packages relating to the development of a Green Computer
- and the development of a sustainable system for take-back and
reuse of IT equipment – were, initially, allocated to Apple Computers,
who participated in the initial proposal. However, due to legal
complications, Apple Computers withdrew from the Project in 2002.
The Partners then identified MicroPro and offered to incorporate
them into the Project in early 2003. At the time of joining the
Project, MicroPro was already planning to develop a greener computer
– so, taking on these tasks for Project HEATSUN fitted ‘like
The LIFE Office accepted their incorporation in 2004 and this allowed
the development of the Green Computer to proceed at full tilt. Project
HEATSUN agreed to support and help to progress MicroPro’s pioneering
work in the following ways -
||making available and helping to secure additional
|commissioning relevant support from specialised
agencies on the development of the Green PC (R&D;)
||promoting and disseminating progress on the Green
PC as it unfolded.
In 2004, with support from Project HEATSUN, MicroPro secured additional
funding under the Cleaner Greener Production Programme (CGPP), managed
by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA). This support has helped
to meet some of the company’s costs in developing the Green PC.
In addition, Project HEATSUN commissioned Research and Development
from the following agencies -
- KERP Center of Excellence Electronics & Environment, Vienna
KERP undertook to carry out a comparative Life Cycle Assessment
(LCA) of the two MicroPro models - the XPC and the new IAMECO
Prototype. This LCA aimed to identify, analyse and evaluate the
ecological impact of the two models throughout their entire lifespan
- in relation to allocation of raw materials, assembly, distribution,
use, end-of-life and recycling. The LCA would be mainly based
on energy indices (a universal means of gauging environmental
impact). The aim of this study was to identify the shortcomings
of each model, so that recommendations could be made for improvement.
KERP also undertook to carry out a market analysis of the Green
PC and its acceptance by customers. MicroPro’s sales experience
was been analysed and compared with current market survey results,
which takes into account relevant factors (such as how much consideration
is given to the environment when considering a purchase). The
report also intends to make recommendations for a market strategy
In addition, KERP has assessed the IAMECO PC from the point of
view of its recycling and reuse potential. This analysis has been
carried out making use of KERP’s software package “ProdTect”,
which analyses the recycling potential of products and their cost/profit
and recycling/recovery rates. KERP would also advise on design
ideas - making proposals to improve design in line with the findings
of the above research.
- University of Limerick
Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering (UL ECE)
The UL ECE is one of the most notable academic and technical institutions
in Ireland dealing with IT. It is also notable for its linking
of environmental and electronic engineering issues. Dr. Colin
Fitzpatrick and his team have mobilised the Department’s considerable
knowledge and expertise to advise and support MicroPro in all
matters relating to technical criteria, in order to secure the
European Eco-Label. They have also advised on other areas such
as - WEEE Registration, ISO and EMAS accreditation - together
with Safety and EMC testing.
UL ECE have tested the Prototype in some areas and directed MicroPro
to agencies where specialist testing can be carried out, in order
to secure the required certification for:
- reducing energy consumption
- reducing hazardous materials
- reducing noise
- reducing electromagnetic emissions
- identifying compliant parts and components.
UL ECE have also undertaken to evaluate MicroPro’s manufacturing
process and to advise on the reduction of energy consumption in
manufacture, to advise on equipment guarantees and take-back arrangements
and to suggest options for reuse of equipment, parts and components
and the production of relevant user-information to be provided
Safety and EMC, WEEE and RoHS Directives
Any computer or peripherals on the European market must comply with
all current regulation relating to the sector. In that respect,
the Green Computer must be compliant with the Low Voltage Directive
(LV) and the Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Directives - and,
also, the more recent WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment)
and the RoHS (Reduction of Hazardous Substances) Directives. In
addition to these product standards, MicroPro has also continued
to process ISO 14001 and EMAS accreditation.
MicroPro is aiming to secure the European Eco-Label for the
IAMECO model, as the key criteria to be achieved.
That is not to say that the Green Computer will not exceed
these standards, or that it will not also meet (or exceed)
other standards (official or otherwise).
For the Project, however, the Eco-Label represents a “bottom-line”
accreditation that – the Project partners believe - should
be in place before any European computer can be called “Green”.
The Project partners believe that, by using the European Community’s
own Ecological criteria as the benchmark, they support the validity
of the standard and the EC’s authority to set such standards. In
particular, the Project partners appreciate and support the Commission’s
attempt to summarise and specify key sustainability criteria that
are both comprehensive and achievable within the Eco-Label criteria.
The IAMECO PC
Based on the Eco-Label criteria - but also building on previous
manufacturing and marketing experience - MicroPro has developed
the new IAMECO range of computers and peripherals.
IAMECO aims to be fully compliant with the Eco-Label standards.
Tests have begun on the Prototype to secure the European Flower.
It is MicroPro’s intention that the PCs also comply with the Energy
Using Products (EuP) Directive.
|The IAMECO housing is manufactured of recycled
aluminium, thereby exceeding the reuse and recycling requirements
of the Eco-Label criteria.
This approach also maximises energy savings, as minimal additional
energy is required for re-manufacture with recycled aluminium. No
plastic is used in the computer housing. IAMECO parts and components
have been carefully selected to meet RoHS requirements and to minimise
electricity consumption, electromagnetic emissions and noise. The
use of an upgradable chassis and modular internal port design maximises
the options for upgrading and reuse of the PCs.
IAMECO monitors, keyboards and mice are mainly made of wood
from renewable forests - with a choice of ash, beech or sapele.
One planned improvement is the substitution of all peripheral
plastics in either bio-plastic (made from a waste by-product
of paper production) or recycled plastics.
The first IAMECO Prototype was previewed at the European Commission’s
Energy Action Day in Brussels on 30.05.06. It generated considerable
enthusiasm and interest - especially among European Commission staff
- who were impressed by the environmental specification, as well
as the pleasing design and generous use of wood.
Testing of the IAMECO computer for the Eco-Label is underway and
should be completed by late 2006. After this, the IAMECO range will
be in line for a major market expansion, as the first certified
European Green Computer. Already, MicroPro has begun to market its
IAMECO range of products via its web site (Click
Here). The company is also exploring the possibility of
large-scale manufacture and franchising of the computer and peripherals,
at a national and European level.
These beginnings represent exciting possibilities and prospects
for the future. Project HEATSUN strongly believes that the process
of developing the Green Computer by a small and local SME - supported
an EC backed Partnership - is a good and replicable example of how
the European Commission, government agencies and SME’s can, together,
create a genuine opportunity for growth and competitiveness on the
basis of environmental innovation.
|This article has
been reproduced with the kind permission of
José Ospina, Project Manager
Project HEATSUN (www.projectheatsun.com)