IPC and ITI Convene Experts and Members to Examine Critical Environmental Requirements for Electronics

Kelly Scanlon, IPC director of environment, health and safety policy and research

Last Tuesday, June 9, IPC partnered with the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) to offer an educational conference for the electronics sector on critical environmental requirements. Previous conferences entailed a cross-country roadshow including stops in multiple cities from the East to West coasts. Due to the pandemic, this year’s event was held via webinar, and the participation level was strong!

In all, we hosted 90 attendees, 12 speakers, and four sponsors from 25 states and 10 countries, who learned about:
• The “Circular Economy” strategy;
• The U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA);
• The European Commission’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive;
• The Substances of Concern in Products (SCIP) database;
• IPC and other industry standards for electronics and the environment; and
• Novel approaches for product sustainability and COVID-19 response.

The conference speakers represented government and industry experience, including:
• William Neale, from the Directorate-General for Environment within the European Commission;
• Susanna Blair and Ryan Schmit from the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency;
• Steve Andrews, currently with a global solutions provider in supply chain management and the former Deputy Head of the Resources & Waste Team in the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra); and
• Walter Jager, an environmental compliance provider and leader in standards development for IEC, ISO, IPC, IEEE, NSF, UL, and CSA.

Attendees also had the chance to engage with the event sponsors: Anthesis/The Compliance Map; Gensuite; GreenSoft Technology; and iPoint. This year, the sponsors doubled as speakers during five-minute “sponsor takeovers” during which subject matter experts from the sponsoring companies engaged directly with the audience in short, informative presentations – kind of like high-intensity intervals that kept attendees engaged and pumped. Kudos to Marc Church, Anne Barr, Brian Ahlers, Randy Flinders, and Donavan Hornsby for their creative presentations.

This year, we also increased our social media presence. IPC, ITI, event sponsors, and speakers used Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to advertise and share news about the event with a large, global audience.

The key takeaways included policy themes that reflect our daily work to engage with industry and government colleagues on critical environmental requirements for electronics.

These themes include:
Consideration of the product life cycle. The chemicals and materials that are critical at each stage of an electronic product’s life-cycle require industry to have end-to-end data and information throughout the supply chain. The TSCA risk evaluations for high-priority substances and the requirements for the SCIP database are real-time examples of how we need to frame our understanding of conditions of use and the risks to human health and the environment in each stage.

Data. Data and information about the chemicals and materials that make up electronic products are more important than ever to sound decision making and policy creation. We need to consider how to improve our abilities to collect, manage, present, and communicate data within industry and to policy makers.

Standards can help industry and government. Ecodesign, ecolabel, and materials declaration standards enable industry to identify the data and information that are useful in design choices, circularity objectives, and end-of-life management options. These standards can be used to meet reporting requirements that will enable the circular economy goals.

Policies as instruments for change. RoHS continues to evolve even as we see new policies and requirements emerging, such as the various chemical and product strategies under the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan. We need to stay engaged.

Communication. We are remiss if we do not work together to nurture partnerships among supply chain members and between industry and government. Industry and government can engage through public comments, stakeholder meetings, site visits, and/or less formal meetings that aim to build trust and shared goals.

While it is the responsibility of every company to understand the environmental requirements that apply to them, IPC will continue to be your educational resource and your advocate. To learn more about IPC’s policy and research work in the area of environment, health, and sustainability, please e-mail me at KellyScanlon@ipc.org or subscribe to our weekly e-newsletter.

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