In the past five years, the EU has developed and adopted major e-waste directives, which member states will begin to implement during 2007. The directives require electronics manufacturers to offer free disposal of consumers' used equipment and also to prohibit the export of hazardous waste to developing countries for disposal.
In particular, three recent EU environmental policies are gradually being implemented across the 27 European Union member nations. Two e-waste directives, adopted in 2003, require manufacturers to dispose of consumers' used electronic equipment free of charge and prohibit the export of hazardous waste to developing countries for disposal.
The rules affect products including household appliances, toys, computers and many more. "The e-waste problem has grown dramatically," said VanDeveer, "as hundreds of millions of cell phones, TVs, computers and other electronic products containing a host of hazardous substances are consumed and discarded in the United States and around the globe."
Meanwhile, the REACH regulation on chemical safety will introduce requirements for importers of products and for information flow in the supply chain.
Given the globally organized supply chain in the high-tech sector, REACH is likely to have a "major impact not only on manufacturing inside the EU but also outside", say VanDeveer and Selin.
The rules put the European Union in the global lead in terms of protecting consumers and the environment, VanDeveer added.
But complications emerge when a country produces a similar legislation which introduces diverging requirements. China drafted a legislation restricting hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment which requires companies to fulfill obligation specific to China, thus making it difficult for companies to run one global compliance strategy which would incur, in many cases, additional and unnecessary manufacturing costs.