As countries move forward in developing manufacturing techniques for advanced products, there has also been a growing trend to monitor and regulate the effects of these products on the environments that they are both manufactured and sold in. However, there are several examples where these new regulations have created significant burdens on manufacturers where certain policies are not only over-reaching but also jeopardize the intellectual property of technology companies, disrupt supply chains and inflict significant costs to companies of any size.
States around the country are beginning to explore the concept of state-level regulatory programs that restrict the use of certain chemicals in consumer products. Most prominently,the California Department of Toxic Substances Control led the way early on by enacting the Green Chemistry Initiative in 2008 (AB 1879), which seeks to reduce consumers’ exposure to hazardous chemicals contained in consumer products by requiring substitutions of less-concerning chemicals in those products or requiring product redesign. The state continues its efforts in 2013 towards finalizing and implementing its green chemistry rules, dubbed the “Safer Consumer Products” regulation. If designed appropriately, green chemistry programs can help drive innovation and result in more environmentally friendly consumer products. However, if designed inefficiently or unwisely, such regulatory programs carry with them the tremendous potential to create uncertainty, delay, and cost to impacted businesses, which ultimately stifles innovation and defeats the shared goals of green chemistry: the delivery of safer, more innovative products to the marketplace.
The Department of Toxic Substances Control continues its efforts towards implementing the Green Chemistry Initiative in California in 2012. The Green Chemistry Initiative seeks to reduce consumers’ exposure to hazardous chemicals contained in consumer products by requiring substitutions of less-concerning chemicals in those products or requiring product redesign. If designed appropriately, Green Chemistry can result help drive innovation and result in more environmentally friendly consumer products. However, if designed unwisely, such regulatory regimes carry with them the tremendous potential to create uncertainty, delay, and cost, which ultimately stifles innovation and would defeat the goals of the Green Chemistry – the delivery of safer, more innovative products to the marketplace.
Green Chemistry should be designed in a way that will both drive improvements in environmental performance and ensure the technology industry’s continued leadership in innovation. TechAmerica is working to ensure that a science-based framework for chemicals management emerges from the efforts in California and elsewhere. State scientists, rather than legislators, should exercise their expert scientific and engineering judgment and experience when determining appropriate regulatory actions affecting chemicals of concern in consumer products.
States around the country are continuing to ponder new, state-level approaches to the mandatory collection and disposal of electronic waste. The different e-waste collection strategies employed from jurisdiction to jurisdiction continues to make this an important issue for the technology industry at the state level and requires close engagement as new laws are considered. More than half of U.S. states have already adopted some kind of statewide e-waste recycling mandate and additional states will hope to join them with the passage of new e-waste legislation in 2013.
TechAmerica supports the responsible recycling of used electronic products in a manner that helps protect the environment and makes the most efficient use of public and private resources. Government should encourage voluntary take-back and recycling programs. It is critically important that legislatively mandated recycling programs avoid placing individual companies at a competitive disadvantage on a regional or national level.
Increasing attention is being paid in various states and at the U.S. Department of Energy to the concept of stricter energy efficiency standards for consumer electronics and hi-tech devices. Among these are battery chargers, computers and laptops, set top boxes, displays, video game consoles, etc. The development of mandatory standards creates the potential for less innovation in the marketplace and products that cannot keep up with consumer demand.
Energy efficiency and sustainability are areas of critical importance to our member companies, many of whom already have proven track records of promoting environmental stewardship and conserving crucial resources. Voluntary pathways to energy savings present flexibility not inherent in regulation and allows for solutions that can keep pace with the rapidly evolving technology sector.
TechAmerica supports the goal of encouraging efficiencies in the market for consumer electronics, but new mandates run the risk of dampening innovation in the marketplace and altering the desirability of products without sufficient insight into consumer demand.
These include registration obligations for chemicals such as the EU Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemical substances (“REACH”) Regulation; substance bans, such as the European Union (“EU”) Restriction on the use of Hazardous Substances (“RoHS”) Directive and China RoHS requirements; product recycling and end‐of‐life management requirements, such as the EU Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (“WEEE”) Directive; and Energy Efficiency mandates and requirements, such as the Energy using Product (“EuP”) Directive and other regional requirements. US Federal and state developments are also tracked and monitored, and responded to when appropriate.
TechAmerica ensures that industry is effectively monitoring any changes and voicing its concerns, through TechAmerica, over certain standards that could significantly impact manufacturers. TechAmerica’s efforts save members a significant amount of financial and human resources that can be invested in other areas. Having an insider’s eye during the drafting phase gives product manufacturers advance notice of certain regulations that could potentially impact their supply chain and the blueprints of their products.
TechAmerica’s professional staff ensures its members that have invested interests in environmental and technical regulations affecting products sold in the European Union, China, and other foreign markets have the appropriate intelligence and facts to implement advocacy efforts to ensure the most harmonized environmental regulations between trading partners. Currently our members are focusing on EU, India and South-East Asian environmental policies, and conflict minerals.
The TechAmerica’s Brussels office has actively participated in the development of the methodology used to assess new candidates for restriction under the RoHS Directive covering all electric and electronic equipment. It has also been an active stakeholder in the development of the FAQ guidance document on the Directive application.
The Brussels office will also engage in the review of the Directive scope, for which a proposal is expected from the European Commission by the end of July 2014.
The TA Brussels branch is also responsible for coordinating a joint industry project on the preparation of applications for renewal of the exemptions granted under the Directive, which are vital for the sector’s ability to keep offering its EEE products.
Our Brussels’ office keeps monitoring the Member States’ transpositions of the WEEE 2 Directive, whose deadline was February 14, 2014, to ensure that implementation is done in a consistent was across the Union market.
The Brussels office has also provided input to the Commission in view of the publication of a guidance document, whose publication is imminent.
The Brussels office contributed to the Commission consultation on legislative measures on conflict minerals, carried out in 2013, which formed the basis for the Commission proposal for a Regulation on Conflict Minerals, published in March 2014. The Brussels office will closely follow the dossier discussion in Parliament and Council, and develop an appropriate advocacy strategy in the course of 2014.
Following the 2013 publication of the REACH review, the TechAmerica’s Brussels office continues to engage with the Commission on the implementation issues which have surfaced since the entry into force of the Regulation.
The Brussels office is also following the Member States developments on nanomaterials registers, and is preparing to assess its contribution to the Commission study on an EU-wide register for nanomaterials.
The goal of TechAmerica Brussels’ Office Sustainability Taskforce is to ensure the best possible policy/market conditions to raise awareness of the key role of the high-tech sector as enabler of low-carbon solutions in other fields.
On-going activities include:
Actively monitoring the UN+20 process: (Business Dialogues, input into the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development/Rio+20 )
Co-organizing the ITU Green Standards Week, Paris: 17-21 September 2012
TechAmerica SGA Environment Committee
The SGA Environment Committee’s main function is to track, analyze and engage where necessary on environmental legislation and regulations in all 50 states. The Committee meets on a weekly basis (Friday’s at 2pm ET/11am PT) and its ultimate mission is to advocate on behalf of TechAmerica membership on key issues tech companies face throughout the country related to the environment. Main topics of interest include electronic waste laws, green chemistry, substance restrictions, extended producer responsibility, and other environmental issues.
Director, State Government Affairs – Northeast
Coordinator, Government Affairs
EU Affairs Manager, Environment and Standards