Computer firms cast doubt on EU ecolabel

Member states adopt final ecolabel criteria for computers, bed mattresses

Criteria for EU ecolabels for personal computers and bed mattresses have been agreed by member states, paving the way for them to become available later this year. But an EU trade association predicts that few computer firms will embrace the new label.

Valentine Herman, a representative of Eurobit, the association representing 90% of EU computer manufacturers, predicted that they would not rush to apply for labels for their equipment. He told ENDS Daily today: "We have grave doubts about what impact, if any, the EU ecolabel will have in the market place."

According to Mr Herman, consumer surveys have found that "95% or more" of purchasing decisions are dictated by price and performance, not environmental criteria. He added that corporate purchasers are also unlikely to be swayed by the availability of an EU ecolabel. Few have asked about existing labels in supplier questionnaires, he said.

Eurobit is also irked that the EU ecolabel energy efficiency criteria differ from values under the international "Energy Star" labelling scheme created by the US Environmental Protection Agency, which is now widely applied in the USA and Japan. The EU is considering joining the scheme.

But while Eurobit is pessimistic about the ecolabel's uptake, ENDS Daily has learned from several sources that one large US computer manufacturer, Dell, is enthusiastic about the EU label and may apply for the label. ENDS Daily was unable to obtain confirmation of this from Dell today.

Last week, EU governments showed strong support for the label by voting unanimously to adopt the proposed criteria. A last-minute relaxation of maximum energy consumption of computers when turned off sparked some discussion. The value was changed from 3W to 5W to accommodate pending changes by Intel - by far the largest manufacturer - to its microchip technology.

Both the ecolabel for personal computers and another for bed mattresses, which was agreed at the same meeting, impose restrictions on the use of flame retardants, which is likely to anger manufacturers of the chemicals. The computer ecolabel will exclude the use of brominated or chlorinated flame retardants in plastic parts weighing more than 25 grams, while the bed mattress label will disallow any retardants classified, or which can be classified, as dangerous to the environment under EU chemicals legislation.

Member states were able to agree only by qualified majority on the bed mattress criteria. Germany and Austria abstained and Denmark voted against. While brominated flame retardants may in time be classified as dangerous, all three countries felt there was sufficient evidence already to apply much tighter restrictions now. Germany also opposed a provision allowing recycled materials previously treated with flame retardants to be used in mattresses qualifying for an ecolabel.

Follow Up:
European Commission ecolabel homepage, tel: +32 2 295 1111.

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