Thursday, November 24, 2005

IBM go Eco Friendly

IBM is well on track to achieving compliance with the environmental RoHs directive by the target deadline of 1 July 2006. Last week, the company stated that all new server and storage products announced from now on would be compliant, and that existing product lines would be re-engineered to achieve compliance.

The Restriction of the use of certain Hazardous Substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHs) is a directive issued by the European Union which calls for producers of electrical and electronic equipment to eliminate the use of six environmentally-sensitive substances: lead; mercury; cadmium; hexavalent chromium; and flame retardants.

Werner Lindemann, Executive: Systems & Technology Group, IBM South and Central Africa, says IBM's product development is proceeding according to plan. "We have made considerable headway in transitioning towards RoHs-compliant products and processes. IBM is committed to meeting environmental regulations and therefore requires its suppliers, in turn, to comply with all applicable laws, regulations, orders and policies in providing products to IBM.

"This approach enables us to ensure our products are compliant. Although a similar directive has yet to be issued in South Africa, other countries such as the US, China and Japan have followed the EU's lead and I'm confident the same will happen here in the near future."

As part of its compliance initiative, IBM has adopted a cleaner manufacturing process which results in fewer pollutants. The disposal and recycling of the compliant systems is also simpler, as the equipment contains less hazardous substances.

Although IBM has an excellent track record of leading on environmental issues, plenty of electronic goods manufacturers are still not producing environmentally-friendly products. And, as e-waste (electronic waste) is growing three times faster than any other waste stream on the planet1, the situation is serious.

E-waste contains hundreds of substances, such as those mentioned above, which are harmful to people and the environment. When e-waste is disposed of, the various contaminants it contains can damage the soil, water and air. The dismantling and incinerating processes can cause emissions of toxic dust, fumes and fluid if they are not handled properly. Landfilling releases contaminants over a period of time.

When e-waste is dumped and left to slowly decay, it leaks harmful toxins into the environment, including: toxic sludge, waste water and flying dust. These can cause allergic reactions or asthmatic bronchitis when inhaled, damage lungs and blood and cause injuries if they come into direct contact with skin or eyes.

The biggest culprit is lead, which is found in the solder of devices and appliances, PC motherboards, chips and other specialised components. Recycling e-waste correctly does have financial benefits for companies, however, as large amounts of secondary raw materials such as copper, aluminium and precious metals have considerable market value.

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