ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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One World - One Environment

Reprinted from an IEC news release

Geneva, Mar 20, 2006

As regulations about the environment increase, so life becomes more difficult for the electrical and electronics industries because the amount of paperwork increases in the form of green procurement surveys or supply chain questionnaires. The regulations are often a list of what one may not do and too much of this, with varying criteria, creates a real Tower of Babel. How to resolve the problem? A Material Declaration Standard used worldwide would work and this is what the IEC has just begun to work on.

Legal requirements and market demands oblige industry to track and disclose specific information about the material composition of its products. Having rules to promote environmental awareness for those who design electrical and electronic equipment makes sense. And so this proposed Material Declaration may well be the answer; one rule for all works out to be cheaper and safer.

Those directly concerned are component suppliers and the equipment manufacturers to whom they sell as it helps both parties to comply with the law. Consistency is the key word and products approved under this standard reassure manufacturers that their products will conform to regulations about the environment. It will also help industry to demonstrate that it is being diligent and law-abiding and, most important of all, exhibiting a responsible attitude towards the environment.

But the sticking point is what to include, and various contributors have different opinions as to the scope of the Material Declaration. For example, should it cover end-of-life procedures or not? Such opinions are often as not influenced by budgetary considerations.

Manufacturers need to obtain composition data, usually presented in the form of a questionnaire. The team working on the IEC’s Material Declaration plans to develop a single truly international passport for environmentally conscious design in products and sub-parts, making it the first single International Standard for the declaration of materials for the electrical and electronics industries. More specifically, it is expected to give minimum requirements on what needs to be included, as well as criteria explaining which materials and what substances need to be disclosed.

Besides listing “what” it will also outline “how” by establishing consistent electronic data exchange formats to help with information exchange along the entire global supply chain – a worldwide computer ‘Esperanto’ if you like.

As well as satisfying legal and regulatory requirements, it is hoped that adherence to the Material Declaration will help stimulate improvements in product design as well as respond to increasing enquiries from customers, product recyclers and other stakeholders.

1 July 2006 sees the deadline for enforcing the European Union’s Restriction on Hazardous Substances. This means that companies will no longer be able to use certain materials. Article 4 of the RoHS Directive, dealing with p revention, says: “Member States shall ensure that, from 1 July 2006, new electrical and electronic equipment put on the market does not contain lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) or polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) in amounts exceeding the established maximum concentration values, on the market in the EU.”

A global standard concerned with protecting the environment will have the chance to play a pivotal role and gain endorsement from some of the big players – countries like China, for example – where measures to protect the environment are already being taken.

“Material Declaration for Electrical and Electronic Equipment” is being prepared under the responsibility of IEC Technical Committee 111 (Environmental standardization for electrical and electronic products and systems).

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