WEEE and RoHS Environmental Guidelines

Hazardous Substances, Electrical and Electronic Equipment have been categorized for labeling, tracking, restriction, and recycling. The objective is to promote the use of environmentally friendly materials and manufacturing processes. The financial burden to support this transition in production is assigned by requirements to provide adequate programs for collection, recycling, and disposal. These costs are primarily carried on the shoulders of the manufacturers and producers of the products. To remain competitive and to support the environmental initiatives, manufacturers and industry associations will need to work together and collaborate on solutions that facilitate consistent programs and processes.Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive is a set of guidelines initially designed in Europe as a means to categorize all types of electronic goods. The directive imposes responsibility on manufacturers to label products and establish an infrastructure in such a way that end-users of the equipment should have the possibility to identify and return Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment free of charge. Manufacturers are compelled to coordinate collection for ecological disposal, reuse or refurbishment.Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS)The Restriction of Hazardous Materials is an internationally recognized directive with the intent to provide common standards that can be used by individual countries and regions to establish internal laws and regulations governing the proper ecologically friendly disposal of electrical and electronic waste. RoHS has often been referred to as the “lead free initiative”, but it actually promotes restrictions on six hazardous substances.1. Lead2. Mercury3. Cadmium4. Haxavalent Chromium (VI or Cr6+)5. Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBB*)6. Polybrominated Diphenyl Ether (PBDE*)* PBB and PBDE are flame retardants used in some plastics.The RoHS directive applies to equipment defined by a section of the WEEE directive and numeric categories.1. Large and Small Household Appliances, including Ovens, Toasters, Refrigerators, etc2. IT equipment, including PC’s, Printers, etc3. Telecommunications equipment including phones, faxes, etc4. Consumer electronics including TV’s, VCR’s, CD Players, etc5. Lighting Equipment, including light bulbs and fluorescent tubes6. Electronic and Electrical Tools, including drills, lawnmowers, etc7. Toys, Leisure and Sports equipment, including fitness machines8. Medical devices are current exempt, but categorized for future consideration9. Monitoring and control equipment is currently exempt, but categories for future consideration10. Automatic dispensers, including ATMsBatteries are not included in RoHS, but are covered by the European Commission’s Battery Directive of 1991. The European Commission is also studying possible inclusion of medical equipment, monitoring, and control equipment. These items were excluded from the original list of product categories, but it is commonly recognized that the list will be expanded and enhanced with to include categorization of additional hazardous substancesGlobal ParticipationEnvironmental labeling, controls, restrictions, and recycling are gaining international attention. Japan has been proactive in introducing recycling laws and incentives for manufacturers to adopt lead-free processes. Japan has a lead-free marking requirement call J-MOSS that took effect on some products in July 2006.China introduced regulations based on a catalogue of restricted materials. Although the marking and disclosure took effect in March 2007, China has yet to publish the catalog of materials.South Korea introduced the Act for Resource Recycling and Electrical and Electronic Equipment and Vehicles in April 2007. This regulation adopted common framework and categorization of RoHS, WEEE and ELV.US Corporate Social ResponsibilityIn the United States, several individual states have proactively introducing regulations for labeling and disposal of electronic waste. Unfortunately, it is limited to only a few states and the regulations have been disparate with inconsistent results.- California is the only state with RoHS compliant restrictions that ban the sale of products with controlled substances. California regulations require the retailer to collect a recycling fee at the time of purchase. This fee is used to reimburse independent registered collectors and recyclers for managing the proper disposal of restricted materials.- Regulations in the state of Maine share the responsibility for recycling between the local municipalities and manufacturers, requiring producers of the goods to support the efforts both financially and physically.- The state of Maryland is running a five year pilot program that expires in 2010. In Maryland, manufacturers pay a registration fee to the state and the funds support county collection programs.- In the state of Washington, manufacturers are responsible to fund their own plans or participate the centralized standard plan administered by a state approved third party provider.It is only a matter of time before more states begin to introduce diverse controls on hazardous materials. It is in the best interest of manufacturers and industry associations to work together to establish consistent self-regulated programs, processes and initiatives that promote ecologically responsible recycling and disposal. By demonstrating reliable results, promoting consumer awareness, and establishing industry sponsored accountability, it may be possible to encourage consistent state and federal regulations. Promoting consistency to achieve these goals reduces the risk of complicated and costly state controls. Protecting the environment and global resources demonstrates good corporate social responsibility.______________________________________________________Words of Wisdom”It may be that the old astrologers had the truth exactly reversed, when they believed that the stars controlled the destinies of men. The time may come when men control the destinies of stars.”
– Arthur C. Clarke”Laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see them being made.”
– Otto von Bismark”Quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It is what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for. A product is not quality because it is hard to make and costs a lot of money, as manufacturers typically believe. This is incompetence. Customers pay only for what is of use to them and gives them value. Nothing else constitutes quality.”
– Peter Drucker______________________________________________________John Mehrmann is a freelance author and President of Executive Blueprints Inc., an organization devoted to improving business practices and developing human capital.