Measuring the Sustainability of Clothes Washers
In May, AHAM published its second sustainability standard, this one for residential clothes washers. Sustainability Standard for household clothes washing appliances, AHAM 7003-2013, was published by AHAM, CSA Group and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and through a partnership of the three organizations on the development of sustainability standards. The first in the family of sustainability standards, for refrigeration products, was published in June 2012.
The goal of this standard is to provide meaningful environmental performance information to manufacturers, governments, retailers, and consumers about clothes washers and to drive innovation and continual improvement in the sustainability of these products. As with the previous refrigeration standard, it is based on a life cycle assessment of the product, factors of environmental impact not contained in a traditional life cycle assessment and consumer expectations which will provide information for interested groups to help distinguish environmentally preferable appliances.
The standard is intended to be used to evaluate products for six key attributes: materials, manufacturing and operations, energy and water consumption during use, consumables, end of life, and innovation, as a bonus attribute. All products are eligible to earn innovation credits for novel design approaches. A product can earn points in each attribute area but in all cases there shall be no degradation of performance of the product when pursuing environmental sustainability.
In the case of materials, the manufacturer shall show documentation that a process is in place to cross-reference its materials and comply with regulations in effect for the intended jurisdictions into which the product is placed on the market. Products shall be evaluated on the basis of the environmental and human health impact of materials used during the production phase, within the final product, and in the packaging of the product.
Manufacturing and operations systems will be evaluated for environmental management systems, energy use, GHG emissions, water management, solid waste management and corporate sustainability.
Evaluation of energy consumption and water use of the clothes washer applies to the use phase. Products must meet or exceed ENERGY STAR criteria for clothes washers as administered by the U.S. EPA and Natural Resources Canada. Products must be in compliance at the time of initial placement on the market and throughout the manufacturing phase. Products must also be listed in a recognized independent third-party registry such as the Clothes Washer Verification Program operated by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM).
The end of life attribute is divided into two criteria: Design for Recycling and Landfill Diversion.
With respect to Design for Recycling, many of the constituent materials in clothes washing appliances are recyclable and able to be extracted from the product at end of life. The product will be evaluated for the potential of disassembly or recycling and additional points awarded if the manufacturer has marked at least 75% of the number of eligible plastic components with symbols using ISO 11469 terminology. “Eligible plastic components” refers to rigid polymer parts greater than 25 grams or elastomer or foam parts greater than 50 grams.
Under the Landfill Diversion criteria, a product may earn points if the manufacturer is part of a voluntary product stewardship program and can demonstrate an increase in the amount of material recycled at end of life.
With respect to the use of consumables (e.g., detergents, bleach, or fabric softener), the criteria are limited to those design elements over which a clothes washer manufacturer has actual control. The criteria fall into two categories: instructional criteria that are meant to educate the consumer on proper use of consumables and machine embodiments that address consumables. The latter are design elements of the machine that would reduce the environmental burden of a consumable as it is being used in the machine, such as if it incorporates automatic dispenser(s) that release two or more consumables at appropriate points in the cycle.
The intent of the innovation attribute is to reward activities that exhibit exceptional performance above and beyond requirements within this standard and are not covered by any of the other criteria in this standard. This attribute may allow a product to receive additional points for innovative environmental actions, programs, policies, or achievements.
This standard is expected to be followed by sustainability standards for dishwashers and cooking products, rounding out the first series of sustainability standard for home appliances.