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10/24/2005
07:15 PM
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Vendors Must Prepare For Stricter Environmental Regs, Exec Warns

Product suppliers must change their mindsets and develop 'design-for-environment' business practices to prepare for a new wave of global green legislation, a Cisco executive told conference attendees this week.

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Equipment and chip makers must change their mindsets and develop “design-for-environment” business practices to prepare for a new wave of green legislation affecting the global electronics industry, warned an official from Cisco Systems Inc.

Speaking at the 2005 Global Supply Chain Summit on Monday (Oct. 24), Joe Johnson, manager of regulatory affairs at Cisco,based here, also urged the industry to develop global environmental, testing and reporting standards to help propel the “design-for-environment” era.

Environmental legislation is evolving worldwide in an effort to reduce and eliminate hazardous materials in electronic products, semiconductors and components. Product-based environmental regulations are also prompting post-consumer recycling and disposal practices.

The European Union (EU) has taken the lead in environmental legislation with the separate Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) and Waste Electrical and Electronics Equipment (WEEE) directives.

RoHS requires six banned substances to be stripped out of the worldwide supply chain without any major glitches, business or technical, by July 2006 in the EU. Meanwhile, the WEEE legislation's directive states that electronic product manufacturers are responsible for providing take-back programs for all electrical and electronic equipment sold into the EU’s member states.

While the EU is rapidly deploying these directives, China, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Taiwan and even the United States are expected to follow suit and enact variations of the same laws, Johnson said.

OEMs and chip makers, therefore, must spend more time and resources to “manage these new requirements,” he said. “Design-for-environment will be required to minimize the impact [of hazardous waste and recycling] over the entire product life cycle. That will be the next wave of the future.”

But companies will also face huge challenges to follow material restriction rules and implement the right testing procedures. In addition, the industry must also develop standards or a “one-world” approach to product qualification, testing and documentation.

For example, the EU is pushing the RoHS directive, but China is taking a “management method” approach to the problem, he said.

“There is also a disconnect between product documentation and compliance confidence,” Johnson added. The conference, which runs from Oct. 24-26, is sponsored by Electronics Supply & Manufacturing, a sister publication of EE Times.

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