PC makers must follow world's strictest green laws, says Gartner

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Laws designed to curb the environmental impact of computer parts will disrupt complex global supply chains unless companies themselves are more stringent, says Gartner.

Manufacturers must adopt the toughest laws as best practice if manufacture and supply is not to be disrupted, said Meike Escherich, the principal research analyst at the firm. A green computer law, the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive, came into effect in the EU in July this year.

The RoHS Directive regulates the dismantling and recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment by restricting the use of hazardous substances used in their manufacture. (The UK implementing laws came into force on 1st July 2006 and, since that date, products put on the market in the UK must not contain any of six listed hazardous substances, measured against prescribed concentrations.)

Escherich says that because of the increasingly international nature of manufacture, companies could find themselves breaching some laws in the assembly of computers unless they adopt the most stringent laws as their basic requirement.

“Failure to transition products on time can lead to high inventories and dramatic price cuts, similar to the effect we saw in western Europe as the RoHS came into effect,” said Escherich. “Non-compliant components will be gradually removed from the global supply chain and force manufacturers to discontinue products that contain them.”

A spate of new green manufacture legislation is due to be enacted across the world. China's law, which Gartner says is stricter than Europe's, comes into force in March next year. Japan has had an active law for six years, and Gartner says that South Korea, China, Australia and California will soon adopt even more green manufacturing legislation.

Escherich said that the best way for companies to insure themselves against supply chain disruption and legal trouble is to adopt the most stringent laws in the world as their standard practice.

“European organisations should be prepared to specify products free of lead and other hazardous substances in requests for proposals now, and we recommend that global and multi-regional companies plan for an orderly transition to compliant products in 2007,” said Escherich. “Good record-keeping is important to demonstrate compliance to enforcement agencies if required.”

In addition to the regulations on hazardous waste, the EU's Waste of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive will take effect in the UK in July 2007. The long-delayed implementation makes manufacturers responsible for the disposal of electrical and electronic goods.

Escherich says that soon green legislation will have an impact on every manufacturer in the world. "Not far from now, 'non-green' parts will be assigned end of life status and green legislation will come to impact every single PC manufacturer,” said Escherich. "The worldwide market should expect to see longer lead times, part shortages and rising prices for non-compliant parts over the next two years."

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