Electronic giants call for EU hazardous substance ban

by Search Gate staff. Published Wed 19 May 2010 14:32, Last updated: 2010-05-19
Cutting out hazardous substances from electronics

EU legislators are now in the process of deciding future restrictions on hazardous substances in electronics through the EU Restrictions on Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive.

An alliance consisting of Acer, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Sony Ericsson, together with public interest organisation ChemSec, Clean Production Action and the European Environmental Bureau, call on EU legislators to ban the use of all brominated flame retardants (BFR) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in electronics put on the market from end of 2015 onwards.

The current RoHS Directive restricts some heavy metals and two types of BFR. The alliance is calling for restrictions on all brominated substances as well as PVC. The European Parliament Environment Committee will vote on the RoHS proposal on 3 June. The European Parliament will consider the directive in plenary in July 2010.

“The supply chain can indeed provide safer substitutes for these hazardous substances,” adds ChemSec Senior Policy Advisor Nardono Nimpuno. “Our recent research report testifies to the fact that alternatives are available, cost effective and suppliers are ready to scale up their production of these alternative materials.”

Alexandra McPherson, Managing Partner at Clean Production Action, added: “Strong substance restrictions in RoHS will drive the global market place in the electronic sector towards substances and materials that are safer for human health and the environment. Companies committed to innovation and green chemistry have paid a premium for safer products, we now need RoHS to level the playing field.”

This alliance of business and NGOs is also calling on the EU to recognize the ability of these substances to generate highly hazardous dioxins and other substances of concern when these substances are incinerated at end of life or more importantly, burned in substandard treatment sites outside the EU. The export of e-waste is banned under EU law but much e-waste makes its way to Asia, Africa and Latin America under the guise of recycling.

The use of PVC and brominated flame retardants in electronics is highly problematic from both an environmental and a human health perspective.

When incinerated, they have the potential to transform into some of the most toxic chemicals ever made by humans, dioxins and furans. Dioxins and furans are global pollutants that are highly persistent in the environment and can cause cancer, birth defects and neurological damage. Chlorinated dioxins are generated from the burning of PVC plastic and have been classified as one of the top global pollutants by the International Stockholm Convention.

Brominated flame retardants also have the potential to generate dioxins in substandard treatment and their presence in products has been shown to present risks to workers in shredding facilities.

Both pathways have been documented recently by researchers from UMEA University in a report compiled for the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.

A recent research report released by ChemSec demonstrates that most applications of PVC and BFRs have been removed from over 500 product models on the market today, including mobile phones, computers, washing machines, coffee machines and TVs. Products from 28 companies, among them Acer, Apple, Dell, HP, Nokia, Philips, Samsung and Sony Ericsson, are listed in the report.

“The objective of the RoHS directive is to protect human health and the environment and to contribute to environmentally sound recovery and disposal of electrical and electronic equipment”, explains Christian Schaible of the European Environmental Bureau, EEB. “EU lawmakers should accordingly take this opportunity to eliminate these hazardous substances that are having a negative impact on recycling and the conservation of resources”.

Perspectives from the IT industry:

* “The transition away from environmentally sensitive substances, such as brominated flame retardants and PVC is well under way at Acer. However we do not have the leverage to move the entire supply-chain on our own. Legislators can help in this process”, explains Acer. “By introducing restrictions, and thereby ensuring that the entire supply-chain is on board, costs are kept down and availability of safer alternative material is promoted.”

* “Dell supports including BFRs and PVC among the substances restricted by RoHS, as well as a full ban on these substances in 2015,” said Mark Newton, Dell’s director of sustainability. “Given the ongoing discussions in the EU Institutions on the RoHS recast, we hope EU decision makers revise RoHS to prohibit the use of PVC and BFRs in electrical and electronic equipment.”

* “Hewlett Packard is working with suppliers globally to remove these chemicals from personal computing product lines,” said Ray Moskaluk at Hewlett Packard. “We know safer substitutes exist through our scientific assessment of alternatives. We support these restrictions in a revised RoHS directive.”

* Sony Ericsson is committed to a complete phase-out of halogenated organic substances from its products, and at the current time has phased out almost all brominated flame retardants (BFR)," said Daniel Paska, Environmental Expert at Sony Ericsson. "We believe the electronics industry has a responsibility to move proactively to find substitutes to replace BFR and PVC and are therefore calling on EU legislators to show leadership on this issue by voting to tighten the RoHS directive.”

Search Gate reader Ronald Kobler of Recovery Processes Innovations, Salt Lake City, Utah, writes in response:

"The hypocrisy of electronics manufactures (Dell.......+ 100s) is without bound. Manufactures advertise, and tell the public they recycle their end of life electronics. By that statement, consumers believe if they pay their fee at the drop off, that the glass will be recycled, the plastics be recycled, the copper in the boards are recycled, the metals will be recycled and the like.

"Nothing could be further from the TRUTH. All manufactures support shredding followed by burning of end of life electronics. Especially in EUROPE. This is done under the name SMELTING. First you shred the electronics using a big shredder. Then you take out the metals, steel, and aluminum, using magnets and eddy current. EVERYTHING else goes to get burned or smelted. The amount of copper to be recovered in in GRAMS. All the plastics 10 pounds, in the shred, get burned to carbon dioxide. What happened to minimizing the carbon footprint?

"But manufactures have a problem, they need a smelter to do this, because the temperatures need to be high to insure the dioxins produced from the flame retardants in the burning are destroyed. BUT there are few smelters around, and require lots of transport costs to get materials to them.

"Enter - the manufactures idea of getting rid of the brominated flame retardants. Now you can burn them in any local waste to energy device....... Low transport costs.

"BUT this is not recycling............ Recycling means putting things into something new...... now disposal to CO2.

"So instead of MANUFACTURES recycling, its much better to just DISPOSE, and call it RECYCLING

"We do recycle the plastics into ABS pipe, CD cases, styrofoam, pellet,,,,,,, etc. BUT OF COURSE thats not as cheap as just burning...... THERE IS A PRICE TO RECYCLING - BUT THE MANUFACTURES WANT LOWEST PRICE NOT RECYCLING AND THAT'S BURN IT UP."

Sign up to receive Search Gate's FREE weekly newsletter with a review of all the latest green news and views

Comments about Electronic giants call for EU hazardous substance ban

The WHOLE reason Electronics MANUFACTURERS want brominated flame retardants out of their plastics is so they can burn them (NOT RECYCLING)??
Ronald Kobler, Salt Lake City, UTAH USA around 5 years, 4 months ago

Post a comment

Alert me of replies

You have characters left


Latest issue of GreenWeek

Powered by SEO Rockstars
© All Rights Reserved.