Date: Tue, 9 Jan 2007 16:17:06 -0500
Reply-To: Ralph Stuart <rstuart**At_Symbol_Here**>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: Ralph Stuart <rstuart**At_Symbol_Here**>
Subject: Impact of Europe's e-Waste Rules Felt Worldwide

I thought that this article from Environmental Resource Center Env  
Tip of the Week newsletter would be of interest to DCHAS members...

- Ralph

Impact of Europe's e-Waste Rules Felt Worldwide

Recently, the European Union adopted some of the world’s strictest  
policies on e-waste and potentially hazardous chemicals. Economic and  
environmental effects of the new regulations will be felt far beyond  
Europe, says Stacy D. VanDeveer, a visiting fellow at the Watson  
Institute. VanDeveer co-authored an article on the policies this  
month in the journal Environment with Henrik Selin, an assistant  
professor of international relations at Boston University. The  
article, titled "Raising Global Standards," analyzes the ripple  
effect that is likely to touch electronics manufacturers and chemical  
companies worldwide.

In particular, three recent E.U. 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.  
This week a new regulation, titled REACH (registration, evaluation,  
and authorization of chemicals) was adopted, requiring registration  
and selective evaluation of more than 30,000 existing chemical  
substances, as well as new ones.

The rules affect products including household appliances, toys,  
computers, and many others. “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.”

The European Union policies are controversial. On the one hand, the  
rules address growing concern about the ecological and human health  
risks posed by discarded chemicals and electrical and electronic  
products. But critics in U.S. government and industry point to the  
potential for billions of dollars of costs and jobs lost.

VanDeveer and Selin argue that most firms operate in multiple markets  
and prefer to produce their products to as few different standards as  
possible. They often follow the highest regulatory standard, rather  
than trying to cope with different manufacturing processes for  
different markets. As a result, if a U.S. company, such as Hewlett- 
Packard or Dell, needs to redesign its laptops or substitute  
chemicals used in production to meet E.U. standards, they are likely  
to make the same changes in laptops made and bought outside the  
European Union.

The size of the European market (more than 485 million citizens) will  
push manufacturers in the United States and Asia to meet European  
standards and will increase the availability of “green” products  
globally, contend the authors. Additionally, the new toxic risk  
information generated by REACH may allow environmental advocates in  
the United States and elsewhere to focus their efforts with specific,  
supportable data.

In the 1970s and ’80s, the United States effectively set many global  
product standards for consumer and environmental protection. Today,  
Europe is playing this role, while U.S. government and industry  
oppose the resulting standards in Europe and in international arenas.  
Critics of the European Union’s policies project costs in the  
billions of dollars, while defenders argue that any increased costs  
incurred by manufacturers have previously been borne by consumers,  
the environment, and waste contractors handling thousands of toxic  

In this complicated arena, there is even some discrepancy between the  
European Union’s own economic policies and environmental ones, the  
article says. VanDeveer and Selin see Europe facing “the critical  
challenge of formulating and implementing a coherent strategy for  
promoting economic growth that is socially and environmentally  
sustainable.” As it does, the authors conclude, the rest of the world  
should take note.

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