Environmental Business Alert: Electronics Update

Date: Jun 24, 2009

European Commission Adds New Exemptions to RoHS for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury

The European Commission published on June 10, 2009, Council Decision 2009/443, 2009 O.J. (L 148), which amends the Directive 2002/95/EC on the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHS) by adding the following six new exemptions for the use of lead, cadmium and mercury in electronics:

(1) Lead in solders for the soldering of thin copper wires of 100 µm diameter and less in power transformers;
(2) Lead in cement-based trimmer potentiometer elements;
(3) Cadmium in photoresisters for optocouplers applied in professional audio equipment (until December 31, 2009);
(4) Mercury used as a cathode sputtering inhibitor in DC plasma displays with a content up to 30 mg per display (until July 1, 2010);
(5) Lead in plating layer of high voltage diodes on the basis of a zinc borate glass body; and
(6) Cadmium and cadmium oxide in thick film pastes used on aluminum bonded beryllium oxide.

Ironically, the Commission is currently reviewing all RoHS exemptions in an attempt to sunset them before the revised RoHS (or RoHS II) goes into effect. The intent is that all exemptions will have an automatic sunset date of a maximum four years after entry, subject to a new petitioning process.

Maine Bans Mercury-Added Button Cell Batteries

On May 6, 2009, Maine became the second state, after Connecticut, to ban mercury-containing button cell batteries. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 38, § 1661-C (2009). Beginning July 1, 2011, it will be unlawful to sell and/or distribute any of the following mercury-added button cell batteries: (1) zinc-air button batteries; (2) alkaline manganese button cell batteries; and (3) any of the following silver oxide button cell batteries: SR357, SR364, SR371, SR377 or SR395. Sellers of silver oxide button cell batteries are given until January 1, 2015, to comply.

Maine Legislature Passes Collection and Recycling of Mercury-Containing Lighting

The Maine Legislature has passed a bill which requires the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to develop and enforce mercury content standards for lamps sold or distributed in the State beginning January 1, 2010. LD 973, item 1, 124th Me. Leg. (Me. 2009). Lamp manufacturers would be required to certify to retailers that their lamps meet mercury content standards adopted by DEP or prominently display a certification statement on either the lamp's shipping container or packaging. The law requires the DEP to promulgate standards that are "consistent with standards established for lamps sold in the European Union (EU) pursuant to the RoHS directive". The law, which the Governor has indicated he will sign, also requires manufacturers to implement recycling programs for the lamps beginning January 1, 2011.

Wisconsin Electronic Recycling Bill Advances

On June 9, 2009, the Wisconsin Senate approved Senate Bill 107, which would require manufacturers to collect and recycle or arrange for the collection and recycling of certain "covered electronic devices" (CEDs) (including visual display devices, computers, and printers). S. 107, 2009 – 2010 Leg., Reg. Sess. (Wis. 2009). Unlike other state electronic waste programs, Wisconsin also would require manufacturers to disclose whether their CEDs comply with the EU's RoHS Directive. The legislation would allow manufacturers to request a waiver from the state for not meeting their required recycling targets if the manufacturer can show that it has made a good faith effort toward meeting their target. The bill must now be approved by the State Assembly.

California RoHS Amendment Passes Assembly

Assembly Bill 147 would require manufacturers of CEDs (which under current California law are limited to video display devices greater than four inches) to prepare and submit to the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), within 28 days of a DTSC request, technical information demonstrating that the CEDs would not be prohibited for sale under the EU RoHS directive and "other available information relating to hazardous characteristics of the equipment". Assem. 147, 2009 – 2010 Leg., Reg. Sess. (Cal. 2009). The purpose of the bill is to allow the state to assess whether CED manufacturers are complying with the state's hazardous material ban without actually having to test products and to provide data for the states Green Chemistry Initiative. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality and is scheduled for a hearing on July 6, 2009.

For more information, please contact: JC Walker at walker@khlaw.com or 202-434-4181.

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