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Forthcoming “Green” European Union Directives

This article reviews upcoming European legislation including Directives concerning the disposal of Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and the Restriction on the use of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) in the manufacture of Electrical & Electronic Equipment

Introduction:
There are a number of environmentally friendly European Union initiatives looming on the horizon, all designed to help create a greener climate for us all.

·        An EC Code of Conduct on the efficiency of external Power Supplies.
This aims to minimize no-load losses of external power supplies, in the input power range 0.3 to 75 Watts, by 5 Tera Watts per year from the year 2010 thereby saving 500 million Euros per year.

·        An international ban on PVCs already endorsed by the European Union.

During manufacture and disposal, PVCs are a source of dangerous and bio-accumulative toxic.

·        The RoHS Directive (2002/95/EU)
This will preclude the use of hazardous substances in Electrical & Electronic Equipment (EEE)

·        The WEEE Directive (2002/96/EU)
This will prescribe that EU producers should collect, treat and recover/recycle the content of Electrical & Electronic Equipment. This Directive (which limits responsibility to the European Union based provider) decrees that the polluter shall pay but does not necessarily detail how such financial burden shall be imposed.

Enforcement measures for the above will range from voluntary commitments (a signed form agreeing to comply with the code in the case of the efficiency of external PSU’s) to thorough reviews of producers’ statistics on the recycling/reuse of their products.

The remainder of this article will be devoted to examination of the two pieces of mandatory “green” legislation that will soon be in force in the European Union: The RoHS & WEEE Directives.

Reasoning for the RoHS & WEEE Directives:
The reasoning behind the introduction of these two new European Union Directives is the desire by the EU to:

Enforcement measures for these laws will range from voluntary commitments through to thorough reviews of producers’ statistics....

1. In time, rid Electrical & Electronic Equipment of hazardous substances.

2. Ensure that land-fill sites are not filled with Electrical & Electronic Equipment

3. Encourage producers to integrate used and/or recycled material into new equipment.

The European Union’s environmental policy states that “environmental damage should be rectified at source” and that the “polluter should pay”. Furthermore, it demands a “reduction of wasteful consumption of natural resources and prevention of pollution”

RoHS Directive: 
The European Union has decided to act to reduce the amount of hazardous material in Electrical & Electronic Equipment (EEE) waste. The RoHS Directive orders an almost blanket ban on the use of certain categories of hazardous material in all types of EEE. It is the more prescriptive of the two pieces of legislation as it clearly outlines preventative measures regarding the use of hazardous substances in the manufacture of EEE.

Examples of banned material are: Cadmium, Hexavalent Chromium, Lead, Mercury & Flame retarding material such as PBDE & PBB. The most draconian requirements are centered round the need to use lead free high melting point solder.

There are a few exceptions contained in the Annex of the Directive.

Examples of exempt material are: Lead used in the glass of CRTs, (lead in the) glass used in electronic components and in florescent tubes, also lead in ceramic parts (e.g. Piezoelectric), lead in solders when used in servers, storage array systems, (which are only exempt until 2010) and telecom network infrastructure equipment (probably exempt until 2010)

WEEE Directive:
The WEEE Directive requires Producers [1] to provide guarantees concerning the financing of collection, treatment, re-use/recycling and recovery of Electrical & Electronic Equipment

The Directive applies to a variety of ICT equipment including that destined for domestic, industrial and commercial use. The legislation will direct that three main types of activity should occur: Collection, Treatment and Recovery. These are terms used throughout the Directive:

Collection describes the actions involved in separating and transferring Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment from the end user to a centralized collection point.

The Directive states that “.... producers, or third parties acting on their behalf, provide for the collection of such waste...”. “The collection and transportation of separately collected WEEE shall be carried out in a way which optimizes reuse and recycling of those components or whole appliances capable of being reused or recycled.”

If third party involvement is the chosen option the producer is still required to contribute financially to this process.

The producer is required to arrange for the transportation of private household WEEE from Collection Centers [2] (not private households) to Treatment Centers. The producer is also required to arrange for the transportation of WEEE from business users to treatment centers.[1][3]

Treatment refers to the actions that must take place to remove hazardous materials and liquids from Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment.

This involves the removal of certain hazardous substances (e.g. lead, mercury) and any components that contain them. In addition, all liquids and some items such as printed circuit boards have to be removed. The selective treatment in accordance with Annex II to the WEEE Directive may only be carried out by properly licensed operators at a licensed treatment centre.

The European Union Commission has directed that producers or third parties acting on their behalf, must set up systems to provide for the treatment of WEEE using the best available treatment, recovery and recycling techniques. Producers may set up the systems individually and/or collectively.

Recovery is a waste management term that refers to the actions of enabling re-use, recycling, burning with energy recovery and composting.

Again the European Union Commission has directed that producers or third parties acting on their behalf, set up systems either on an individual or on a collective basis, to provide for the recovery of WEEE collected separately.

The producer is required to arrange for the transportation of private household WEEE from Collection Centers to Treatment Centers. The B2B producer is required to arrange for the transporting of WEEE from business users to treatment centers.

Business-to-Business Electrical & Electronic Equipment: Under the WEEE-D the responsibility for collection, treatment and recovery of Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment from “other than private households” (B2B) is deemed to rest with the producers, or third parties acting on their behalf.

Affect on Producers:
It has yet to be finally determined precisely how producers in all the various Member States would be made to pay for the three types of operation mandated by the WEEE-D; it is foreseen that ultimately there will be an effect on end-user pricing.

From the point of view of Manufacturers, Importers or Distributors the opportunity to dispose of their own equipment is not necessarily a disadvantage especially if money can be made or saved by re-using certain items and/or recycling whole items as spares or for new installations. It may be possible to claim market advantage by offering to dispose of customer’s existing equipment, particularly if competitive suppliers are reluctant to do so.

Historic Equipment & Business to Business (B2B) Sales: Currently the text of the WEEE-D states that the ‘Producer’ is responsible for recycling those of their own products that are already on the market, regardless of any new sales. This would have a huge impact on balance sheets and so it is proposed that Producers should finance B2B end of life recycling (historic waste only) when selling new products on a like for like basis. For example if a producer sells 100 new phones to a business customer, the seller would be responsible for collecting, treating and recycling up to 100 old phones from that customer if so required to do.

This would not affect the arrangements for products sold after the Directive comes into force, (determined by a date code that must be printed on the labels of all products placed on the market after August 2005).

Record Keeping: The requirements of the WEEE-D will involve the manufacturer establishing recording systems to track their internal recovery statistics, those of third party suppliers and those of any recycling/reuse contractors.

The practical implementation of the WEEE Directive is likely to vary from Member State to Member State.

Targets to be set for producers are as follows:

·        75% to be recycled - by weight of product; of which

·        65% to be for reuse

Provision of information: Information will need to be provided by producers so that recycling centers can determine which materials can be recycled or recovered. User Instructions will need to provide users, recycling agents and treatment facilities with information on how to disassemble, process and treat Electrical & Electronic Equipment. This information could be published in User Manuals, on the Internet or in separate literature/CD ROMs. But who pays?

Historical WEEE – Who Pays? The producer is required to pay for collection, recycling and recovery of all types of WEEE sold before the effective date of the legislation regardless of the historical supplier. It is proposed that this be financed by a levy on producers, which will be assessed according to the producer’s current market share – by type. Producers will be allowed to add an amount to the end user cost of new products for this purpose. The cost must be itemized on the equipment receipt and can only be levied for the financing of historical waste.

New Equipment – Who Pays? For Electrical & Electronic Equipment sold after the effective date of the legislation producers must finance the collection, treatment and recovery of their own equipment.

Producers will be able to group together and/or contract out their responsibilities under the WEEE-D; the principal of the WEEE-D and main onus on producers being the financing of the WEEE activity.

If third party involvement is the route chosen to comply with the requirements of the WEE-D the producer is still required to contribute financially to this process. Manufacturers and suppliers in the European Union will be required to facilitate the disposal of its own and/or other suppliers’ equipment when new equipment is installed in customers’ premises.

Status Of Legislation:
These two pieces of legislation have been published in the European Union Official Journal (OJ), and have been passed into national law in each of the European Union’s Member States. There will doubtless be further and more detailed implications for manufacturer’s and suppliers now that this has happened.

The European Union is currently debating with member states’ governments the practical mechanics of adapting these Directives for use. The adoption of these Directives is being steered by a committee of representatives from each Member State - known as the Technical Adaptation Committee (TAC), which meets regularly to plan this adoption process. Until they have finished their work there are a lot of unanswered questions as to how these Directives (particularly the WEE-D) will work in practice in each Member State.

 

If third party involvement is the route chosen for compliance the producer is still required to contribute financially to this process.

·        The RoHS-D had to be brought into (legal) force in all Member States by July 2004.

·        The WEEE-D had to be brought into (legal) force in all Member States by 13 August 2004

Under the WEEE Directive producers must take responsibility for their products from the effective date of the legislation in that Member State.

The RoHS Directive will be brought into effect on 1st July 2006

Penalties for Non-Compliance:
In most cases indication of compliance will be by product marking. Compliance with the WEEE-D will be indicated using a special symbol (showing a crossed out dustbin!).

Both Directives detail penalties for non-compliance such as product bans, recalls, fines and even imprisonment (unlikely). In practice the penalties would be felt in the commercial impact of bad publicity, lost market share etc.

Next Actions:

  1. Choose which of their product range does and does not fall under these Directives.
  2. Choose a policy that meets the WEEE-D requirements for Collection (separating and transferring) of Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment from the end user (B2B) or a centralized collection point and whether this will be by return at the point of sale, collection as part of the delivery/installation process for new replacement equipment etc.
  3. Choose a policy that meets the WEEE-D requirements for Treatment to remove hazardous materials and liquids from Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment. Will this be an internal operation or will it be contracted to a third party etc?
  4. Choose a policy that meets the WEEE-D requirements for Recovery to enable re-use, recycling, burning with energy recovery and composting of WEEE material. Will this be an internal operation or will it be contracted to a third party etc?
  5. Review supplier agreements to make sure that their policies for compliance with the RoHS & WEEE Directives are in place and satisfactory.

 

How Can Patton & Associates Help Producers Comply?
We can assist producers in the following ways:

1. Generate a plan of action for compliance with the requirements of RoHS and WEEE Directives.

2. Conduct a review of existing product content to ensure compliance with these new Directives and ensure that products continue to comply with existing Directives.

3. Conduct a review of existing products and identify which components need to be re-specified

4. Conduct re-tests/re-certification of products as required.

5. Determine suppliers’ level of preparedness with the Directives.

Useful Websites:

 

Author biography – John Roche is Managing Director of Patton & Associates (United Kingdom) – the European office of Patton & Associates Inc. of Prescott Arizona. Patton & Associates provide Telecommunications Consulting, Design and Type Approval services for Europe, North America and The Pacific Rim.

John Roche can be reached at: jroche@patton-assoc.com
 


[1] Producer can mean the European Union based manufacturer, the European Union importer, distributor or reseller.

[2] Collection centers are defined (typically) as centralized collection points to which the public can take WEEE; they can be also be a store or somewhere similar where buyers would be encouraged to take WEEE when purchasing new items.

[3} The European term that is being adopted for business EEE commerce is Business to Business (B2B)

 

 

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Last updated: February 25, 2010
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