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.
TechAmerica’s Brussels’ office has provided input into the EU Commission public consultations regarding the RoHS 2 FAQ, with the aim to clarify outstanding issues such as the scope, the definition of “large scale” installations and the approach to cables. As the FAQ are considered a “living document”, the Brussels office continues dialogue with the Commission on those sections of the FAQ that might be further improved.
The Brussels’ office also issued a joint position paper on the issue of scope and concentration limits for surface coatings under RoHS 2.
Furthermore, a mapping exercise has started, with the goal of identifying which substances benefitting from an exemption (Annex III of the Directive) are of relevance for members’ business. This work will form the basis to prepare the exemption renewal requests.
Our Brussels’ office is monitoring the Member States’ transpositions of the WEEE 2 Directive, to be completed by February 14, 2014.
The Brussels office has also provided preliminary input to the Commission in view of the publication of a draft guidance document, similar to what done for the RoHS 2 FAQ. Publication of a first Commission draft is expected in the course of 2013.
TechAmerica’s Brussels’ office is preparing an update of its position paper of 2011, to suggest solutions to the implementation issues which have surfaced since the entry into force of the Regulation. The paper will be completed following publication of the much-awaited Commission REACH review.
TechAmerica’s Brussels’ office is assessing the recent (October 2012) Commission Communication on the 2nd Regulatory Review of Nanomaterials, with the goal to eventually produce a position paper. The developments on national registers at the level of some Member States are also being closely monitored.
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.