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issue: September 2005 APPLIANCE Magazine

Appliance Engineer: The Open Door
The Global Impact of Regional Legislation


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by Len Swatkowski, vice president of Global Shared Services, Invensys Climate Controls

Its only been two decades since the first truly global environmental effort was initiated in Vienna to address the measured variation of the ozone layer caused by man-made sources. The Vienna Convention, which took form in the Montreal Protocol 2 years later proved to be the first global effort to regulate the manufacture and use of a group of chemicals demonstrated to have an impact on the planet as a whole. This effort also carried enforcement penalties and trade sanctions for those countries not adopting its phase out schedule. The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer also provided money for research and financial incentives for countries to sign up to this endeavor.

The stage seemed set for a new era of environmental efforts that would be embraced by the global community. The Rio Convention on Climate Change was initiated in 1992 after the success of the Montreal Protocol and offered promises of leveling the environmental playing field based on six greenhouse gases generated by human industrial activity. United Nations members met in Kyoto, Japan in 1997 to negotiate a protocol to reduce greenhouse gases. This protocol was signed by more than 100 countries and legally went into effect on Feb. 16, 2005. The U.S., citing competitive disadvantages among a list of objections, has not joined the Kyoto Protocol. The global regulatory engine seems to be temporarily stuck in neutral. Then again, perhaps not.

The European Parliament has embarked on a new series of regional initiatives addressing environment and industrial waste with its implementation of the Directive on the Restriction of the use of certain Hazardous Substances (RoHS). While this legislation is directed toward those competing in the European marketplace, the adoption of this directive has created a global frenzy that may lead to worldwide adoption.

To quickly review, the RoHS and WEEE directives looks to resolve the increasing amount of electrical and electronic scrap entering into the waste stream by eliminating six materials of concern (so far) and setting into place mechanisms by which the current electrical and electronic scrap load is intercepted and recycled. The major point in illustrating RoHS/WEEE do not lie in the fact that the European Commission is promulgating new environmental regulations, but that RoHS/WEEE are regional regulatory efforts that will be adopted and enforced by the global industrial community because of non-governmental influences.

Much has been published of late regarding the global direction of the industrial base and overall globalization of the worlds economy. One of the arguments has been the role of government in this evolution. The waxing or waning of this role relative to environmental issues is arguable in either camp. What is emerging is the role of environmental issues in the global industrial community. In the past, the early adopters of these issues have been vulnerable to loss of business due to cross border (country, province, or state) commerce. In the U.S., appliance energy efficiency regulations in California in the 1980s temporarily preempted draft federal statutes that eventually resulted in consistent national regulations. It didnt make sense to build one kind of product for 17 percent of the U.S. market and another for the rest of the country. The RoHS/WEEE directives are having a similar impact, but are driven by a different incentive.

The European Parliaments passage of RoHS/WEEE was that regions response to the increase in electronic products entering the waste stream. Electronic devices are among the most global components used in worldwide manufacturing. After scrutinizing the European Commissions efforts to promulgate the directives, the implications were clear: Do we manufacture one product for Europe and maintain the status quo for the rest of the world?

While the similarities between what happened in the U.S. with appliance energy standards and the global impact of RoHS/WEEE are apparent, the differences are also evident. In the first case, the incentive to comply was set into state, then federal rulemakings resulting in law with clear penalties. The push to compliance for RoHS/WEEE is coming from another direction our suppliers and our customers.

The fact is that as long as we have argued with the lack of clear regulation to comply with RoHS/WEEE, our suppliers are telling us they are already in compliance, and theres no going back. The company that supplies SMT resistors and capacitors for a computer company in Taiwan sells the same parts to the telecommunication company in Norway and the smoke detector company in the U.S. They are only going to produce one variation of this part, and it will be RoHS-compliant.

It has become increasingly clear that the decision to switch to RoHS-compliant assemblies is being made by non-governmental entities. The fact is that the global economy is being merged into fewer and fewer corporations being supplied by a limited number of suppliers. Regional legislation is resulting in global promulgation fueled by the need to economize and standardize the products we build and sell on a global basis.

If you would like to contact Mr. Swatkowski, e-mail editor@appliance.com

APPLIANCE ENGINEER is devoted exclusively to the interests of engineers within the consumer, commercial, business, and medical appliance industry. The editorial scope covers significant developments in all technical areas energy, materials, mechanics, and processes bearing on research, development, testing and evaluation, engineering management, and product or system engineering of appliances.

Editorial
Advisory Board
JIM BOLDT
Vice President, Engineering
Broan Manufacturing Company

Tim Brooks
Corporate Product Safety Manager
Whirlpool Corporation

GLENN GOETZ
Engineering Manager
Maytag International, Inc.

Fred J. Keller
Vice President of North American Residential Engineering
Carrier Corporation

E. J. MCINERNEY
Chief Engineer, Technology
GE Appliances

WILLIAM A. REED
Vice President, Operations
U-Line Corporation

LEN SWATKOWSKI
Vice President,
Global Shared Services,
Invensys Climate Controls

DR. THOMAS YU
Vice President of R&D
The Hoover Company,
A Div. of Maytag

Manuscripts: Engineers desiring to submit manuscripts should first request a copy of the Style Sheet for APPLIANCE ENGINEER Authors, 1110 Jorie Blvd., CS-9019 Oak Brook, IL 60522-9019 U.S.A.

APPLIANCE ENGINEER is a
registered trademark of
Dana Chase Publications, Inc.
Microfilm copies are available from University Microfilms, 300 N. Zeeb Rd., Ann Arbor, MI 48106.

 

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