Though most people don’t realize it, standards shape our world each and every day. Standards play a central role in ensuring safety, efficiency, performance, and environmental well-being while encouraging trade at the same time. Whatever industry you’re in, it’s crucial to know the standards that affect you to stay on top of developments and meet your own stakeholders’ expectations. This is especially true in the realm of electronics and its waste management.
Unless referenced in legislation, standards are voluntary measures that encourage best practices. In Canada, these standards are coordinated by the Standards Council of Canada (SCC). The SCC also represents Canada’s international interest on the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
Similarly, the SCC facilitates the Canadian National Committee of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), which specifically handles standards relating to electronics. The IEC also organizes the conformity assessment systems that ensure that products meet the standards. With 179 technical committees and approximately 700 project teams, the IEC covers a wide range of issues concerning electronics, from safety to renewable energy. Representatives from countries around the world participate on these teams.
An area of growing interest is the potential environmental impact of electronics and what can be done to reduce it. How can we design electronics to be more eco-friendly? How do we encourage them to be energy efficient? How do we ensure that recyclers have the necessary information to recycle electronics effectively?
The IEC has therefore established a technical committee, TC111, to address these issues. Canada is actively involved in this group, which works on “Environmental Standardization for Electrical and Electronic Products and Systems.”
Since its inception, TC111 has already published three standards:
IEC 62631:2008: Electrotechnical products — Determination of levels of six regulated substances (lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls, polybrominated diphenyl ethers). This international standard specifies the determination of levels of lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium in inorganic and organic compounds. Polybrominated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl — two types of brominated flame retardants in electrotechnical products — are also discussed.
IEC 62430:2009: Environmentally conscious design for electrical and electronic products. This standard addresses requirements and procedures to integrate environmental aspects into the lifecycle of electrical and electronic products.
IEC/PAS 62596:2009: Electrotechnical products — Determination of restricted substances — Sampling procedure — Guidelines. This specification provides sampling guidelines and strategies for electrotechnical products as well as electronic assemblies and components. This document could be used for any restricted substance.
Besides the already published standards, there are five areas where standards are currently being developed:
• Material declaration for electrical and electronic equipment — PT 62474
• Guidance for assessing compliance of finished goods with respect to restriction of use of hazardous substances — PT 62476
• Standardization of environmental aspects — glossary of terms — PT 62542
• End of life recyclability calculation for electrotechnical equipment — PT 62635
• Communication formats on recycling for electrotechnical equipment between manufacturers and recyclers — PT 62650
These are issues where the international community has shown a need and an interest for standardization. Project teams with experts from around the globe are now working to develop the standards.
As our economy continues to evolve, as well as our industries, new concerns and areas for standardization arise. The topic of greenhouse gases has been identified for possible future work, with a group set up to consider the issue within the IEC framework. Ultimately, the goal of standardization bodies is to get full representation from potential stakeholders. If these standards will affect you, there are opportunities to get involved.
The Canadian TC111 committee has monthly conference calls and meets once a year. However, the meeting is not a fixed time or location. The last general IEC meeting, where committee members also had face-to-face meetings in each of the working groups, was in Tel Aviv, Israel, in October 2009. The next general meeting is in Seattle, Washington in October 2010.
For more information, visit the Standards Council of Canada website at www.scc.caand the International Electrotechnical Commission website atwww.iec.ch
Stephanie McLarty is Chief Catalyst, Clients Relations and Corporate Social Responsibility, at CTAR Corp in Toronto, Ontario. Stephanie is a Technical Expert on the Canadian TC111 committee and, along with fellow CTAR Co-founder Tina Gokstorp, was a Finalist in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2009 awards. Contact Stephanie at email@example.com