Industry Voices Call for U.S. RoHS

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CHICAGO While European Union (EU) member states adjust to RoHS Directive guidelines, many members of the SMT industry in the U.S. are calling for similar standards domestically. South Korea and China anticipate implementing national RoHS Directives as a way to maintain national corporate competitiveness for exports to the EU. Whether influenced by environmental concerns, component availability issues, global trends, or simply a desire to see laws on manufacturing and disposal standardized across all 50 states, several government, consumer, and industry groups have put forth proposals for RoHS- and WEEE-based documents in the U.S.

Paul Tallentire, president of Newark InOne, attests that standards similar to RoHS and WEEE enacted in various U.S. states are creating problems for manufacturers and distributors of electronics. Tallentire sees the cost factor involved in tracking and satisfying so many different sets of restrictions as daunting, and believes U.S. regulations on hazardous materials must be created at the federal level. Newark InOne is polling industry members on its Website for their stance on federal RoHS and WEEE laws.

Tallentire refers to California's SB20/SB50 law, effective in January 2007, as an example of U.S. RoHS legislation. California will ban certain levels of cadmium, lead, mercury, and hexavalent chromium four of the six substances banned by the EU RoHS in certain consumer electronics. SB20/SB50, adopted in 2003 and 2004, also created a program in which consumers paid an up-front recycling fee, which distributors in turn paid to the state's Board of Equalization (BOE). E-recycling management fell to the Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) and Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). The state operates a Website and E-mail system to keep related parties abreast of appropriate deadlines and paperwork. This legislation, along with analogous bans elsewhere, must be recognized by manufacturers whose end-products might be shipped to these states.

In July, The U.S. Department of Commerce, Technology Administration, released its "Recycling Technology Products: an Overview of E-waste Policy Issues" report outlining the management of e-waste. The report did not suggest any specific legislation, but detailed possible guidelines and discussed solutions for a national e-recycling program, based in part on feedback from industry manufacturers. Elements of the EU's RoHS and WEEE guidelines were present in the report, which culled opinions and expertise across the supply chain to examine an electronic product's entire life cycle. Details of the Commerce Department release can be found in our feature.

A congressional forum was held this month by the bipartisan E-waste Working Group in Washington, to discuss proper disposal of obsolete electronics with electronics manufacturers, retailers, recycling organizations, state officials, and environmental groups. Representatives Thompson, Bono, Slaughter, and Wamp concluded that a "patchwork" of state regulations will detrimentally affect the competitiveness of U.S. electronics manufacturers. Recognizing environmental and health concerns with e-waste in U.S. landfills, the group expressed interest in a national policy of "clear and consistent" e-waste regulations. If the U.S. adopts WEEE regulations, they will most likely precede RoHS-style federal bans on lead and other hazardous substances in electronics, since programs for recycling are more firmly developed in the U.S. than programs for monitoring heavy metals in electronics, or regulating electronics production materials.



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