PolyU launched Eco-Design and Manufacturing Programme for Electronic Products to meet environmental requirements

With the support of the Innovation and Technology Commission, the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) and the School of Design (SD) of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) jointly launched the Eco-Design and Manufacturing Programme for Electronic Products yesterday (29 April). The research programme is aimed at helping the electronic industry meet the new European environmental directives that will be transposed into national laws in the 25 EU member states in August 2007, with Dr Winco K.C. Yung of ISE and Prof. Lorraine Justice of SD being the Principal Investigator and Co-Principal Investigator respectively.

The research programme was officially kicked off by Mr Gordon C. T. Leung, Deputy Commissioner for Innovation and Technology; Prof. K. B. Chan, Chairman of Hong Kong Green Manufacturing Alliance and Chairman of the Hong Kong Electronic Industries Association; and Prof. J. M. Ko, PolyU Vice President (Research Development).

Professor Ko said in the ceremony that the research programme received HK$4,500,000 funding from the Commission and eight industrial sponsors, and is expected to take two years to complete. It will reach its target users with the advocacy of industry bodies, such as Hong Kong Electronic Industries Association, Green Manufacturing Alliance and Federation of Hong Kong Industries. It is estimated that more than 2,000 companies can benefit from the research programme.

European Union has already launched and implemented three environmental directives with direct influence in the design and manufacturing processes of electrical and electronic equipment: WEEE (2002/96/EC) on reducing waste; RoHS (2002/95/EC) on restricting the use of certain hazardous substances, such as lead and mercury; and EuP Directive (2005/32/EC) on establishing an eco-design framework for making the lowest environmental impact throughout the product life cycle. Companies from Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta region in the case of non-compliance will be subjected to fines, taxes and reduction or obstruction of sales.

The research programme will focus on selecting material with high recyclability, eliminating or avoiding hazardous material, choosing green production process, maximizing energy and water efficiencies, and minimizing waste. By optimizing processes and resources, the research programme is expected to help manufacturers improve their cost effectiveness as well.

Specifically, it will develop case studies on four types of electronic products, namely, electronic toys, electronic communication devices such as PDA, electronic-driven household appliance, and professional electronic equipment such as blood analyzer. These case studies will serve as demonstration to guide manufacturers to meet the directives practically.

Furthermore, the research programme will also formulate Eco-design profiles in relation to four chosen electronic products. In addition to fulfilling the requirements of various environmental directives, manufacturers can design their products based on such profiles to relieve financial burden from waste treatment, minimize the use of materials and energy, and generate fewer pollutants during the production process. Consequently, not only can costs be reduced, but also the appeal to consumers with preference for "green" products increases.

Other deliverables of the project for the electronic industry will include product life cycle charts with decision making points, guidelines for eco-design implementation, training workshop and seminars, consultancy services, and an informational and promotional website.

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