Another wave of environmental regulations is on the horizon and — not surprisingly — accelerating in markets targeted for significant growth in the electronics sector.
Specifically, India, Mexico and Brazil are drafting hazardous materials restrictions, e-waste laws, recycling initiatives, and energy conservation measures. While most of these laws are modeled on the familiar EU RoHS and WEEE regulations, they add to the patchwork of environmental laws causing headaches in the supply chain. (See: What You Need to Know Now About New Environmental Regulations.)
The challenge is not so much complying with the laws — it’s the paperwork that’s drowning the channel. Under the new (as well as old) regulations, many products must demonstrate environmental compliance with a label similar to the Energy Star designation. They may also require confirmation of UL– or CE-type audits. As Design Chain Associates' Ken Stanvick said on yesterday’s Webinar on the regulations, just finding room for all the labels on a product is going to be tough.
A few highlights of the regional specifics:
India. Revisions to India’s proposed regulations were issued Oct. 7, and the news is good: The scope of the laws is not as broad as originally planned. The original proposal would have required most, if not all, electronics products to comply with hazardous materials restrictions. The revisions narrow those categories down to IT, telecom equipment, and some consumer electronics such as TVs. DCA says the scope is now similar to RoHS, so manufacturers should have some familiarity with the guidelines. Action item: Within 60 days of promulgation of the law, manufacturers must obtain an authorization form that effectively allows them to continue to sell products in India.
Mexico. Mexico is focusing its efforts on energy efficiency. The country will issue a catalogue of some 180 products that must comply with its energy conservation standards. Action item: Mexico’s WEEE type initiative will contain provisions for waste created during the manufacturing of technology products. How this will be implemented is yet to be decided.
Brazil. The largest market for electronics products in South America is having the same problem as the US: inconsistency. Each of Brazil’s states is developing its own environmental and recycling regulations. Like the US, this could mean conflicting requirements, fees, and fines. Action item: Manufacturers planning to sell products in Brazil should check out each state’s requirements.
Unlike the US, however, Brazil is trying to harmonize the regulations under a single federal standard, says DCA's Stanvick. In the US, the Government Accountability Office has suggested that the EPA oversee a coordinated federal effort on e-waste and recommend action. The EPA is in the process of reviewing the GAO report. Updates will be issued when the EPA takes action.
Or rather if the EPA takes action. In the US, federal law vs. state laws is a hot-button issue. The same issue applies across countries and even continents: What governing body will impose environmental standards on others? I wonder if a standards organization comparable to the electronics industry’s IEEE or IPC could be formed to harmonize worldwide environmental laws. Any ideas?