The Continuing March of Product-Targeted Environmental Regulations

10.12.2011 // Mike Kirschner // Supply Chain

Over the past few months manufacturers in general, and the electronics industry in particular, have had to deal with still more environmental regulations and requirements. Here is an overview of some of the recent RoHS, WEEE, and substance restriction activities that may impact your company and products.


In May, India issued its “e-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011”. While similar to EU RoHS and WEEE to some extent, the scope is much narrower. Responsibilities of producers, collection centers, consumers/bulk consumers, dismantlers, and recyclers are described in significant detail. Producer responsibilities include labeling the product with the symbol already used for EU WEEE as well as collection, financing, and filing annual returns. Producers (this includes importers) must also apply for and obtain authorization in order to sell products.

Last year, the scope of the draft Rules was very extensive, covering everything in EU WEEE except category 5, lighting equipment. This has been whittled down to part of category 3, IT and telecommunications equipment, and some consumer electronics, including TVs, refrigerators, washing machines and air conditioners.

The RoHS part of the regulation covers the same six substance groups as EU RoHS with the same concentration limits in homogeneous materials. Exemptions follow EU RoHS exemptions (but some that are not relevant to the actual scope of products are included).

The regulation comes in to force May 1, 2012 and may be downloaded here.

China Voluntary RoHS

When China issued its RoHS-like law, called Administration on the Control of Pollution Caused by Electronic Information Products, in 2006 one of the provisions was that eventually the law would restrict materials. Part of complying with the restrictions would be to have the product tested in labs. The test data would provide the evidence of compliance required to obtain the pre-market certifying CCC mark.

About two years ago, China produced a draft of the first “key administrative catalog”, which contained the first group of products that would be targeted for substance restriction. This never went beyond draft stage because industry pushed back hard on the testing requirement. Last year the Ministry of Information and Industry Technology (MIIT) proposed the idea of a voluntary version of the substance restriction and testing requirement. The complying product would be marked as such and would have an advantage in (at least) government procurement.

The final version of the program was announced this summer. It comes into force on November 1, and allows a variety of certification approaches based on the type of product being certified. The product categories range from desktop and laptop computers, printers, TVs, and phones to electronic components like resistors and capacitors.

Vietnam RoHS

Vietnam has promulgated a RoHS-like regulation called “Quy định tạm thời về giới hạn hàm lượng cho phép của một số hóa chất độc hại trong sản phẩm điện, điện tử “ (“Temporary regulations for permissible toxic chemical content limits in electrical products”) No.: 30/2011/TT-BCT, as updated and corrected by 4693/QD-BCT.

The regulation, which must be complied with as of December 1, 2012, again covers the same six substance groups as EU RoHS with the same concentration limits in homogeneous materials. Its scope broadly overlaps the current EU WEEE scope, including categories 9 and 10, but not 8 (medical devices). The list of exemptions appears to come from a downrev version of the EU exemption listing.

Differences from EU RoHS include:

  • The requirement to include a statement of compliance on the company website, or delivered along with the product, as well as
  • A requirement to maintain records showing compliance

What makes this regulation “temporary” is that the Minstry of Industry and Trade produced it as a “circular”. This will be in effect until a corresponding National Technical Regulations becomes available.

Nigeria WEEE

On May 25, Nigeria promulgated the “National Environmental Citation (Electrical/Electronic, Sector) Regulations, 2011”. The regulation contains extensive EU WEEE-like requirements as well as requirements for Nigerian facilities undertaking manufacture of EEE. The scope of coverage includes ten categories of EEE, and they map directly to the ten EU WEEE categories. But it goes beyond that as well. Requirements include:

  • New EEE must have the date of manufacture indicated on the product
  • Similar to India, manufacturers and importers must register in order to sell product
  • Used EEE imported into the country must be functional

California Green Chemistry – An Update

Nearly 2 ½ years ago I wrote a MarketEye article entitled “A Quick Look at California's Green Chemistry Initiative.” So have we come very far since then? Yes and no.

The Safer Consumer Product Alternatives regulation implementing Assembly Bill 1879 was supposed to come into force on January 1, 2011. It did not. The intervening two years had produced many drafts and many complaints, but insufficient clarity and direction to enable the regulation to be issued. Earlier this year, the California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC), which is responsible for writing the regulation, got a new director as the Brown administration swept into power. The director, Debbie Raphael, has been a leader on the Green Ribbon Science Panel (GRSP) so is very familiar with the requirements and the history.

We are now expecting another draft of the regulation this month. Given the intensity and focus of the GRSP discussions that have taken place this year, I expect something that is much closer to being generally acceptable and implementable than before. The GRSP will have another meeting in mid-November to discuss this, then expect a final draft at some point after that. I expect that we will see a regulation come into force in the latter half of 2012 or early 2013.

In the meantime, my advice is for manufacturers to make an effort to understand the chemical substances that comprise your products to a greater degree than you ever have before. In addition to knowing what they actually are, you will need to understand their toxicity profile. Furthermore, you will do well to weigh that toxicity profile in your selection of materials. The cost of redesign due to poor selection of materials based on environmental criteria is a cost that can be avoided if you do the right work up front.

Conflict Minerals

On October 18th, the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) will hold a public roundtable meeting at its headquarters at 100 F Street in Washington DC. The event will take place from 12:30 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. and will provide a forum for various stakeholders to exchange views and provide input on issues related to the SEC’s required rulemaking. The panel discussions will focus on key regulatory issues such as appropriate reporting approaches for the final rule, challenges in tracking conflict minerals through the supply chain, and workable due diligence and other requirements related to the rulemaking.

We will provide a summary of this meeting and an updated status in our December MarketEye posting. In the meantime, even without finalization, some OEMs have started the process of soliciting smelter information from their supply chain. If you receive an OEM query and are unsure how to proceed, you can call DCA or visit the Electronics Industries Citizenship Coalition EICC website where you will find a wealth of information.

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Featured Contributor:
Mike Kirschner

Mike Kirschner

Mike Kirschner is a product environmental compliance and performance expert who provides advice and expertise to manufacturers in a variety of industries. His primary areas of focus include EU RoHS, the impact of EU's REACH regulation on article manufacturers, California’s Safer Consumer Products regulation, and performance standards like IEEE-1680.x for electronics. Mike helps manufacturers define, implement and troubleshoot internal management systems that result in compliant products, and assesses and monitors environmental regulations around the world on their behalf. ( More... )

He contributed two chapters to the Governance, Risk, and Compliance Handbook, published by Wiley in 2008, and is featured in the critically acclaimed book, Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power. In 2009 he was appointed to the California EPA Department of Toxic Substance Control's Green Ribbon Science Panel.

Mike is President and Managing Partner at product lifecycle and environmental consultancy Design Chain Associates, LLC (DCA). He spent 20 years in engineering and engineering management roles within the electronics industry with manufacturers including Intel and Compaq. Mike holds a BS in electrical engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

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