Electronics industry meet EU regulators at ChemSec conference: "Moving away from Brominated Flame
Retardants and PVC is possible, feasible and is already happening!"
The question is not whether electrical and electronic equipment industry can phase out these chemicals, but
Jill Evans, Member of the European Parliament.
The “Greening Consumer Electronics - from Hazardous Material to Sustainable Solutions” Conference in the European Parliament on 18 November gathered around 100 representatives from the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission, as well as representatives of the electronics sector, trade associations and public interest organisations.
The event was hosted by Jill Evans, Member of the European Parliament and rapporteur on the RoHS dossier,
Introduction: MEP Jill Evans
MEP Jill Evans started the conference by describing how the event takes place against the backdrop of the ongoing revision of the RoHS directive (Restriction of Hazardous Substances in electrical and electronic equipment) in the European Union. Describing the problems on an ever-growing global stream of electronic waste, and how RoHS presents a unique tool to green the e-industry, restrictions of hazardous material is not preventing the development of new products, but the opposite: products have been redesigned to comply with RoHS, and many companies are now already going beyond that to phase out the use of halogenated compounds. The recast of RoHS thus presents EU-legislators with an important opportunity to take progress a step further. Her report in the EU legislative process takes note of these possibilities and builds on emerging evidence of problems for human health and the environment connected to the use of bromine and chlorine, eg in brominated flame retardants and PVC.
Ms Evans: If the electronics industry with its highly complex products can convert to low-halogen within the next few years, then others can do the same.
Professor Bergman: The flaws of a substance-by-substance approach
The first presentation of the conference was given by Professor Åke Bergman, Head of Department of Environmental Chemistry at Stockholm University.
Tracing the history of brominated flame retardants, Professor Bergman described the continuous problems for human health and the environment of this group of chemicals. Scientific evidence show that new BFRs are found in bio-monitoring, in mammals as well as humans, all over the world
In addition, the similar structures of individual substances within the group indicate similar hazardous properties. Accordingly, tackling them one by one is highly in-efficient and does not address identified risks that one targeted BFR constitute.
Brominated and Chlorinated Flame Retardants are highly persistent and bio-accumulative. Actions on these
chemicals should have been taken long time ago, hopefully steps will now be taken in the right direction,
said Professor Åke Bergman Head of Department of Environmental Chemistry at Stockholm University.
Apple: a Design Approach ensuring Continuous Improvement
Introducing the business-perspective on halogens in electrics, Apple described how the company today is virtually BFR and PVC-free:
Our products have been RoHS compliant since 2006 and most of our products are today free from Brominated flame retardants, PVC, phtalates and mercury, explained Andy Baynes, Head of Environmental Technologies at Apple Inc. Mr Baynes also underlined the importance of an elemental approach in verification of bromine and chlorine restrictions, rather than a compound by compound approach, arguing that the compound approach is not only more complex and time-consuming, but also much more costly
Sony Ericsson: Why did we do this? – Because we could!
The Apple presentation was followed by Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications, describing how an ambitious early start has put the mobile-maker among the leaders in sustainable consumer electronics: Sony Ericsson shipped their first BFR-free phone in 2002, and the Sony Ericsson portfolio will be totally PVC-free by the end of 2009.
This transition is already happening within the industry, and when volumes go up it will be cheaper for companies to buy BFR-free components than to buy components relying on brominated flame retardants. Further legislation can continue to drive this development and push industry in the right direction, said Mats Pellbäck-Scharp, Head of Corporate Sustainability at Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications.
DSM: High performance PVC-free plastics
Ariela Verboord from DSM Engineering Plastics, a leading material supplier delivering plastic compounds to companies like HP, Dell and Acer, told the story of how DSM has developed a high performance halogen-free alternative to PVC. Through co-development trough the value chain, DSM has developed Arnitel XG which is a halogen-free solution for wire and cable. This products, Ms. Verboord described, is halogen-and phthalate-free, RoHs compliant, recyclable and delivers reliability and high performance.
Furthermore, in its portofolio, DSM produces Stanyl Fortii a high temperature resistant polyamide, which is an entirely bomine and chlorine free solution for connectors.
iNEMI: Concerted efforts across industry and supply-chain
Grace O’Malley, Manager of European Operations at iNEMI, the International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative, with companies such as Dell, Intel, HP, Huawei and Cisco as members, described the work of these companies phasing out PVC and Halogenated Flame Retardants. In her presentation, Industry Collaboration Driving Proactive Environmental Improvements, Ms. O’Malley presented iNEMI’s halogen-free projects, explaining how a concerted effort is needed across the industry & supply chain on driving tradeoffs across design, fabrication, and materials to derive solutions. iNEMI is targeting desktop and laptop new product intercepts in 2012, and servers being targeted for 2014.
CPA: Driving Innovation towards Greener Products
Alexandra McPherson Project Director of US-based Clean Production Action, summarized with the final presentation of the conference: Many leading manufacturers and suppliers within the electronics sector, such as Apple, Sony Ericsson, Dell, HP and Sony are already producing products free from PVC and Brominated and Chlorinated Flame Retardants.50 percent of the mobile phones on the European market today are BFR, CFR and PVC free, and about 40 percent of computers on the European market are likely to be free from BFRs, CFRs and PVC within two years. Europe is leading the way on this issue and the revision of the RoHS Directive is a unique opportunity to influence the rest of the world and drive innovation towards greener electronic products.
In her final remarks, MEP Jill Evans encouraged her fellow EU-legislators to seize the momentum that these
and other companies have created by developing halogen-free products:
I do not believe this is the time to stand still; this revision is an important opportunity to strengthen the RoHS Directive. The companies are already ahead of us, said MEP Jill Evans in her closing remarks. Rather than asking the question Why? when considering a phase-out of hazardous material in consumer electronics, we should ask the question Why Not?
The conference was moderated by Nardono Nimpuno, ChemSec.