July 2005

U.S. electronics businesses face new European Union compliance directives

The 25 countries of the European Union, as well as Japan and China, are about to significantly restrict the use of environmentally hazardous materials in electronic components and systems.

Under the EU’s directive, called Restrictions on Hazardous Substances (RoHS), hundreds of thousands of products currently produced and marketed by electronics companies could become obsolete, forcing semiconductor and other electronics manufacturers to re-design some products to remove certain toxic materials. Beginning in July 2006, companies not in compliance would be unable to sell their products into EU member countries. This will have a huge impact on the industry - all chip and equipment manufacturers and distributors doing business internationally must comply with these new directives.

A second EU directive, known as Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), requires companies that sell electronic products in Europe to set up end-of-life collection and recycling systems for these goods by August 2005. WEEE has not garnered as much attention as RoHS, but recycling is a legitimate concern. The International Association of Electronics Recyclers is projecting that the enormous volume of end-of-life electronics will require its members to grow their capacity by a factor of four or five by the end of this decade.

In an effort to educate the industry about the upcoming changes in environmental regulations, Electronic Design, Electronic Design Europe and Electronic Design China have begun a global initiative to provide reference resources to electronics manufacturers, design engineers and suppliers.

The RoHS Resource Center, a dedicated microsite at www.elecdesign.com, contains information crucial to a full exploration of the subject matter including a collection of in-depth articles from Electronic Design magazine and links to relevant technical papers and online resources.

Currently available in the RoHS Resource Center is the first chapter of a new eBook titled Guide to New International Environmental Laws. Written by Electronic Design magazine’s contributing editor Ron Schneiderman, the Guide details the new environmental directives, the industry’s response and an outlook toward future policies. “The industry is facing a huge and potentially costly challenge with the European Union’s RoHS and WEEE directives,” said Schneiderman, “and it could be just the beginning. Ultimately, lead-free products will become the standard. And there are countries and companies that are ready to add more substances to their restricted list.”

In conjunction with the RoHS Resource Center, Electronic Design is also forming a RoHS Advisory Board with membership consisting of industry-leading companies and design engineers. “It is appropriate that Electronic Design should take a leadership role in educating the industry about these significant changes,” said Bill Baumann, the magazine’s Publisher. “The RoHS Advisory Board will give the electronics industry a forum to develop and learn best practices from their peers, in consultation with experts in the field of environmental compliance.”

To download the Guide to New International Environmental Laws or for more information about Electronic Design’s RoHS Advisory Board, visit the RoHS resource center at www.elecdesign.com.

 


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