As manufacturers in the electronics industry continue along the road to environmental compliance, the next item up is China’s RoHS regulations. Most manufacturers that ship products globally are in the last phases of complying with the European Union’s RoHS laws, but China’s laws don’t come into affect until March 1, 2007. The details of China’s law are murky at the moment, since China has not released the full list of products that are subject to its RoHS regulations. That list is expected later this fall. In the meantime, China has been clear about the labeling requirements that go along with its ban on hazardous substances.
According to Mark Myles, services director at The Goodbye Chain Group in Colorado Springs, Colo., a company that help manufacturers manage environmental compliance, companies are actively making progress in complying with China’s labeling. “The first thing is the labels and tables, which is the first phase of the China RoHS,” says Myles. “Companies are beginning to produce the symbol that indicates their compliance with the six hazardous substances.”
Myles notes that part of China’s labeling regulations require manufacturers to indicate the length of time the products will be environmentally safe. “You have to show the number of years before the product will begin to leech hazardous substances,” says Myles. “This is not well-defined, so companies don’t know what do to.”
Most manufacturers are assuming that compliance with the European Union RoHS will also mean they are compliant with China’s regulations. “Essentially, if you have brought yourself in compliance with the EU RoHS, you will likely be compliant with China RoHS on the six substances,” says Myles. “The differences are more in the implementations.” One of the differences is China’s labeling requirements. But Myles notes they are not particularly demanding. “The labeling requirements are important and easy to comply with.”
Some differences between the European Union and China regulations are not yet clear, since China has not issued final requirements. Those are expected by late fall of 2006. “There may be some differences such as plating,” says Myles. “If you examine and change your plating to make sure you don’t use hexavalent chromium and cadmium, you should be okay.”
As for other upcoming environment laws such as REACH, the European Union regulations governing the use and content of chemicals in products, Myles says the regulations have not yet come up on the radar for most manufacturers in the electronics industry. “Right now REACH is largely a problem for Dow and DuPont,” says Myles. “For manufacturers of electronics products, REACH will happen up stream in the supply chain. If a chemical company is making materials for a coating on circuit boards, they will have to stipulate what chemicals they are using.”