The drive to protect the environment and to conserve natural resources has brought about a proliferation of regulations.
Spec-Hardened Systems, Rochester, NY, USA
As the clamor for better and newer electronic products continues worldwide, there is increased concern over landfills accepting growing “mountains” of discarded electronic products. Consequently, global environmental regulatory compliance legislation and standards development activities are proceeding at a robust pace. These regulatory efforts encompass areas that include energy conservation, restricted use of a class of hazardous chemicals, and disposal and recycling requirements for many types of products, including motor vehicles. As is the usual case, the European Union (EU) is the prime mover in this effort, followed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In the United States (U.S.) these environmental protection issues are being dealt with on a state-by-state bases, with the State of California leading the way.
GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS
On January 1, 2007 the EU became an even greater economic power, achieving a membership of 27 nations with the addition of Hungary and Bulgaria. All EU states must comply with the requirements of the EU’s CE Mark regulatory compliance system. The CCC Mark system used by the PRC generally tracks the EU’s CE Marking requirements, which, for the most part, are formulated by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). Other counties, including the United States, are in the process of implementing various environmental regulatory compliance requirements.
The emerging trend would seem to be moving toward a single set of environmental compliance standards that could be applied globally—a major step toward the goal of protecting human health and welfare and conserving Earth’s natural resources.
European Union’s Environmental Protection Directives
The EU is taking the lead in implementing environmental regulatory protection compliance standards. The following environmental protection compliance standards have been adopted by member nations, or are being implemented on a guidance basis.
- RoHS (Restriction of Certain Hazardous Substances) Directive 2002/95/EC, with Amendments, effective 1 July 2006
- WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Directive 2002/96/EC
- EuP (Eco-Design of Energy-using products) Voluntary, effective 1 August 2007
- ELV (End-of-Life Vehicle) Directive 2000/53/EC
- REACH (Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization Registration of Chemicals) Directive-Future
EU RoHS Directive
The EU RoHS Directive requirements apply to electrical and electronic products and components powered by voltages up to 1000 VAC or 1500 VDC. Products covered by the RoHS Directive include:
- Large household appliances
- Small household appliances
- Information technology and telecommunications equipment
- Electrical and electronic tools (expect for large scale stationary industrial tools)
- Consumer equipment
- Lighting equipment (except for household lighting)
- Toys, leisure, and sports equipment
- Medical products (not including implanted devices and infected medical products)
- Monitoring and control instruments
- Automatic dispensers
The limits of chemical concentrations of heavy metals specified in the RoHS Directive are as follows:
Lead — 0.1%
Cadmium – 0.01%
Mercury – 0.1%
Hexavalent Chromium – 0.1%
Polybrominated Biphenyl (PBB) – 0.1%
Polybrominated Biphenyl Ether (PBDE) – 0.1%
Note that the concentrations are 0.1% or 1000 ppm (except for Cadmium, which is limited to 0.01% or 100 ppm) by weight of homogeneous material. This stricture means that the limits do not apply to the finished product, or even to a component, but to any single substance that could (theoretically) be separated mechanically—for example, the sheath of a cable or the tinning of a component could not be made of a material that exceeded these limits.
The RoHS Directive is an Article 95 Single-Market Directive—i.e. based on Article 95 of the EU Treaty. This designation means that the over-arcing aim of the Directive is to avoid anything that might create barriers to trade or that might have an impact on a single market within the European Union. It sets absolute criteria that must be met. Member states may not set limits that go beyond the Directive’s requirements.
The Directive requires that the manufacture must demonstrate “Due Diligence” and must produce a required “Certificate of Conformity.” Enforcement measures include the imposition of fines. Still, the intent of the EU authority is to work with industry, and not against it, in a mutual effort toward compliance. There is a list of exemptions to the RoHS requirements, and a manufacturer should stay abreast of its contents and any on-going changes
EU WEEE Directive
The WEEE Directive was issued on January 27, 2003 and went into effect on January 1, 2006. It applies to products put on the Market after August 13, 2005. The WEEE Directive specifies that the manufacturers (producers) are responsible for the disposal of discarded or used products. Every manufacturer must recover, treat, and ultimately dispose of the waste eventually created by obsolete or discarded products. These obligations can also be imposed on retailers and distributors. A further obligation is affixing the WEEE compliance symbol to the product. Finally, the producer must insure that his product is disposed of in an environmentally sound manner and must register annually with each EU nation in which the product is sold.
Essentially, there are two producer compliance schemes. Producers may engage an outside firm or compliance scheme that will carry out the collection, treatment, recovery, and reuse/recycling obligations imposed by the WEEE Regulations. Conversely, some producers may prefer the independence and control of arranging and demonstrating compliance themselves. Both choices are valid as long as the environmental imperatives are met.
Regulations apply to all electrical and electronic equipment placed on the market that fall into any of ten product categories, unless the equipment is a part of another type of equipment that does not fall into any of these categories. The regulation also specifies the voltage range of the products in the ten categories covered by the Directive’s scope. This range of these voltages is up to 1000 VAC or 15000 VDC.
The ten product categories are:
- Large household appliances
- Small household appliances
- IT and telecommunication equipment
- Consumer equipment
- Lighting equipment
- Electrical and electronic tools
- Toys leisure and sports equipment
- Medical devices
- Monitoring and control instruments
- Automatic dispensers
Annex A of the Directive sets out indicative (but not all-inclusive) examples of products in each of these categories.
The regulations do not apply to:
- Equipment intended specifically to protect national interests or to be used for military purposes, e.g., arms, munitions, and war material.
- Filament light bulbs
- Household luminaries
- Large-scale stationary industrial tools
- Implanted medical equipment and infected medical equipment—i.e., equipment that has been implanted or has otherwise come into contact with blood or other biological contaminants.
- Products where electricity is not the main power source
Below is a list of offenses that can result in the imposition of fines on the producer of a product:
- Failure to register with EU nations
- Failure to report when asked by the Secretary of State (applicable only to distance sellers) for information indicating compliance with WEEE financing obligations in other EC Member States, when placing goods on the market in those member states.
- Failure to finance treatment of allocated waste equipment according to the requirements of the regulations.
- Failure to finance recovery and recycling/reuse of allocated WEEE according to the target percentages in the WEEE Directive
- Failure to produce accurate evidence of compliance—in relation to financing, treatment of allocated WEEE, or its recovery and recycling/reuse
- Failure to provide information to treatment facilities on types of new equipment put on the market after August 13, 2005.
- Showing a “visible fee” in a way which contravenes clause 25 of the regulations
- Delay or obstruction of enforcement authorities in their enforcement activities (including exercise of their powers of entry and inspection)
EU’S End-of-Life Vehicle Directive
The EU’s parliament and council adopted the End-of-Life Vehicle Directive on September 18, 2000. The environmental protection objectives of this directive are:
- Reduction of the quantity of waste going into disposal sites
- Reduction of the volumes of hazardous waste produced
- Avoiding an increase in emissions into the air, water, and soil
- Reuse, recycling, and other forms of recovery of end-of-use vehicles and their components
This directive prohibits the use of heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and hexavalent chrominum in vehicles and their components. The directive requires delivery of discarded vehicles to a recycling facility as of January 1, 2007.
The EU’s WEEE Directive requires that the governments of member states must encourage the eco-design of components, materials, and finished products so as to facilitate the reuse, recycling, and recovering of waste electronics. Henceforth, manufacturers should factor eco-friendly materials and structures into product design from the earliest stages.
The REACH (Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization Registration of Chemicals) Program is still in the process of being formulated. This program’s primary objective is to register approximately 30,000 chemical types with the goal of controlling their use.
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA’S (PRC) ENVIRNOMENTAL PROTECTION REGULATORY REQUIREMENTS
PRC RoHS Regulations
The PRC is implementing its own version of the RoHS Program with requirements that will be mandatory beginning on March 1, 2007. The requirements of the Chinese RoHS Program apply to all IT electrical and electronic products that are imported into the PRC and put on sale within that market. The requirements of the PRC’s RoHS Program do not apply to products that are exported from the PRC. The PRC’s RoHS regulations were issued by its Ministry of Information (MII) and are legally binding. The document specifying the PRC RoHS requirements is entitled “Requirements for Concentration Limits for Certain Hazardous Substances in Electronic Information Products (SJ/T 11363-2006)”. The PRC RoHS regulations are an important issue that must be addressed by industry. Other related PRC RoHS documents are SJ/T 11364-2006 “Marking for the Control of Pollution Caused by Electronic Information Products” and SJ/T 11365-2006 “Electronic Information Product Virulent, Deleterious Substance Examination Method.”
One key similarity between the EU RoHS Directive requirements and that of the PRC RoHS laws is the list of substances targeted, but, the similarities very nearly end there. There are significant differences between the EU RoHS Program and that of the PRC. For instance, material requirements in the PRC RoHS regulations must be validated via testing in a certified PRC laboratory. There is no such requirement in the EU RoHS Program. Products meeting the PRC RoHS compliance requirements must have the PRC’s CCC Mark applied to their packaging. Also, a Certificate of Compliance must be provided to the PRC authorities with the product.
There are a number of significant differences between China RoHS and EU RoHS Programs. The PRC regulations are broader in scope and include semiconductor and large scale manufacturing equipment, medical products, automotive electronics, production materials and consumables, components, and component materials. There are three different marking schemes, depending on the substances within a product and its “environment friendly use period.”
Important elements of the PRC’S RoHS compliance program are that the producer must use “due diligence,” must maintenance an effective data management system and testing program, and must produce the required Certification of Compliance. For example, material testing down to the homogenous materials in every single part within the product may be required. Further complications arise given the March 1, 2007 enforcement date. This looming deadline leaves suppliers with little time to design labels, issue change orders, and assess inventory in order to comply. Also, keeping abreast of changes poses a challenge especially when documents are issued only in Chinese. Still, the PRC is committed to maintaining a robust on-going RoHS Program aimed at protecting the health and welfare of its citizens.
The PRC RoHS specification calls for mandatory pre-market testing certification of all IT electronic products. Enforcement methods that are applied by the PRC’s RoHS compliance authorities include:
- Withdrawal of operating licenses within the PRC’s market
- Shutdown of production or distribution facilities
PRC “WEEE” Regulations
The PRC has formally announced new regulatory regulations affecting electronic waste and product quality, under the document “Administrative Measures on the Control of Pollution Caused by Electronic Information Products”. The administration documents are contained in following three pieces of legislation:
- Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Promotion of Clean Production –Referred to as, “Clean Production Promotion Law”
- Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Waste – Referred to as “Solid Waste Prevention and Control Law”
- Law of the People’s Republic of China on Product Quality – Referred to as, “ Product Quality Law”
At this time, the Chinese government has issued these documents only in Chinese, English translation of the Administrative Measures on the Control of Pollution by Electronic Information Product have not been issued as yet.
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION REGULATIONS IN THE UNITED STATES
America discards more then 100 million computers and other electronic devices each year. As e-waste piles up, so does concern about this growing threat to our environment. For example, a cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor can contain as much as eight pounds of lead. E-waste from electrical and electronic products, including CRT televisions, is one of the largest sources of toxic heavy metals in municipal dumps. Printer circuit boards are dotted with anthimony, silver, chromium, zinc, tin and copper. Prolonged exposure to some of the metals in electronic devices has been shown to cause abnormal brain development in children, and nerve damage, endocrine disruption and organ damage in adults. The Basel Action Network (BAN) is an organization devoted to halting free trade in toxic waste. After its 1992 convention, BAN called for nations to sign an international treaty that limits trade in toxic waste. The U.S. declined to sign the treaty.
In the U.S. environmental protection legislation is being accomplished on a state-by-state basis without overall federally sponsored regulations. The State of Vermont has legislation approved for a statewide requirement for the collection, reuse and recycling of electronic devices that contain hazardous substances. The states of New Jeresy, Mississippi, Washington, California, Florida, and Rhode Island, among others, are imposing environmental protection requirements. California requires retailers to collect fees to cover the state’s recycling program. In addition, California is putting in place a RoHS Program that is tailored after the EU’s program. The legislation goes into effect on January 1, 2010. The California RoHS requirement limits the homogenous concentrations of lead, mercury, to 0.1% and hexavalent chromium to 0.01%. California has already restricted the use of flame retardant PBB and PBDE under California’s health and safety code 108920-108923.
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION CONSIDERATIONS IN PRODUCT DESIGN
Manufacturers now must consider life cycle management of their product from initial design through recovery and recycling. Often, additional business resources are needed to meet these expanded environmental imperatives. The impact of environmental compliance on product reliability, quality, safety, and EMC further complicates the manufacturing process. Often, product environmental issues can also be categorized as product safety issues. Finding substitute materials to replace RoHS prohibited materials can present some significant challenges. For instance, replacing lead-based solder with other available solders involves some negative aspects such as higher melt temperatures, whisker growth, and Kirkendall voids, which can lower the mechanical shock immunity level of junction interfaces.
To assist in developing a company‘s environmental life-cycle regulatory compliance program there are several publications available to the manufacturer. Among these are:
- IEC_HSPM QC O8OOOO is an international systems requirement document adopted by the IECQ and based on US EIA/ECC b959, “Electrical and Electronics Components and Products Hazardous Substance Free Standards and Requirements.”(IECQ is the abbreviated name for the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components.)
- ISO 14001 is an internationally recognized environmental management system standard. Very similar in structure to the ISO 9000 Quality management system standard, ISO 14001 outlines several key requirements with which companies should comply to operate in an environmentally responsible manner.
OTHER GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION ACTIVITIES
Around the globe, other environmental efforts are underway including:
- Battery recycling programs in place in various U.S. states and in the EU nations
- In the U.S. the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued regulations for the recycling of cathode ray tubes.
- Energy conservation programs are active in many nations globally. In the U.S., there is the Energy Star Program with similar efforts in the EU with their Energy Plus and Nordic Star Programs.
The environmental compliance standards being adopted around the globe have become vital considerations in the design and manufacture of electrical and electronic products. Although formulated in the EU, the RoHS and WEEE standards can be regarded as de facto global environmental requirements for the world’s electronic industry. The global toxic waste issue is fast becoming more serious with the proliferation of advanced electrical and electronic products. Those exporting or intending to export their products to a global marketplace must adhere to the requirements of environmental regulatory compliance standards within their target market.
Manufacturers and vendors of electrical and electronic products risk fines, product recalls, market loss, and negative publicity from accusations of non-compliance and therefore must show due diligence in complying with global environmental standards requirements. It’s inevitable that the recycling of product waste and the elimination of hazardous substances is and will be the trend of the future. This trend is being drive by the growing volume of hazardous waste, the fact that the earth has limited natural resources, and an increasing awareness of health risks uncovered by advances in medical research.
Tony DiBiase is president of Spec-Hardened Systems, an EMC and Product Safety consulting Company. He is a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology and holds a BSEE degree. He has presented several seminars and training programs on EMC and Product Safety.