Hazardous substances can be found in many products, including electrical and electronic devices and systems. As countries become more conscious of the negative impact of these substances on the environment, regulations have been adopted to enforce their reporting. Rulings also restrict the most polluting and dangerous chemicals. IEC publishes an international standard on substance reporting which improves transparency up and down the electronics supply chain. The publication also helps suppliers and manufacturers to comply with existing regulations. IEC Technical Committee (TC) 111, which specifies environmental standards for electrical and electronic products and systems, issued the first edition of IEC 62474 in 2012. (For more information on the TC, read Protecting the planet, in e-tech issue 05 2018.)
“The standard had a huge impact when it was published because it levelled the playing field. Before IEC 62474, the biggest suppliers could dictate their terms when it came to substance reporting. It also replaced existing national or regional standards, such as the Joint Industry Guide (JIG-101) and the Japanese Green Procurement Survey Standardization Initiative (JGPSSI),” explains Robert Friedman, Co-Convenor of the IEC 62474 validation team.
IEC has issued a new edition of the standard which includes a number of improved features, in response to points raised by industry stakeholders. They wanted greater flexibility and ease of use when it came to substance reporting. Requests to widen the reach of the standard to sectors outside the electronics industry were also voiced. “One of the most important selling points of Edition 2 is that it is a one-stop shop, a very complete standard which provides information on what to report and how to report it, including a separate mechanism for the exchange of data down the supply chain,” describes Friedman. The standard is also available in a red line version, highlighting the changes with the previous edition.
A common format is used to ease the transfer and processing of data. The standard also comes with a validated open database which includes a declarable substance list (DSL), which is updated in line with regulatory requirements. The new edition enables users to employ two different methods for declaring substances.
“The standard defines a declaration for compliance and a composition declaration. The first one enables suppliers to check their products against the existing DSL, whereas the second allows them to make a broader substance declaration, which includes, at a minimum, any declarable substances in the product. The composition declaration can optionally include other substances as well, and can even become a complete substance declaration. In the previous edition, the two different types of declaration were merged into one, with no clearly defined rules for substance reporting. This new approach makes things easier for both manufacturers and suppliers,” explains Walter Jager, Co-Convenor of the IEC 62474 validation team with Robert Friedman.
By providing both declaration methods, the new edition equally paves the way for likely regulatory changes. “Some companies are already willing to go beyond the declarable substance list and wish to report all the substances in their products. The composition declaration is, for the time being, mostly used for simpler products which do not include many substances to report. But looking towards to the future, companies will probably have to declare an increasing number of chemical substances in more complex products to meet new regulations concerning the environmentally-conscious design of products,” Jager says.
The IEC 62474 DSL is regularly updated, as new or revised regulations are released. “It is brought up to date by three different groups dealing with separate geographical areas: Americas, Asia and Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). These groups keep track of the various regulatory changes around the world,” says Christophe Garnier, chair of IEC TC 111. A typical example of such regulations is the EU Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive, which restricts the use of specific hazardous materials found in electrical and electronic products and which was most recently amended in 2015.
In the new edition of IEC 62474, exemption lists are included in the database. Restricted substances can be used in specific instances, when there is no other scientific alternative. “The use of exempted substances needs to be declared through the supply chain in a consistent manner. Downstream manufacturers want to be able to assess the compliance of their products and report exemptions when required. The new edition of IEC 62474 has harmonized a number of exemption lists that can be found in existing regulations, but as other exemption lists are identified, they can be added to the IEC 62474 database,” explains Mark Frimann, Co-Convenor of the Maintenance Team for IEC 62474, which developed the new edition of the standard.
“This means that countries wishing to replicate RoHS-type regulations could refer to the new edition of IEC 62474 in their legislation to specify exemptions instead of creating their own exemptions list. We do the work for them by always ensuring the list is up to date,” Jager adds.
Another important selling point is that the standard can be used by any supply sector wishing to report chemical substances in their products. “The toy or the textile industry, to mention just a couple, could use the standard to meet their own requirements. It is easy to adapt it, all you need to do is establish the relevant list of substances in your product, using the IEC 62474 declaration methods and employ the exchange format for the transfer of data down the supply chain. The list of exemptions can also be customized,” Garnier indicates.
According to Koshi Kamikagi, Co-Convenor of the Maintenance Team for IEC 62474 with Mark Frimann, the new edition is a big step forward as “it can be used as a substance declaration in forward logistics, which involve all the processes required to get products to market, but also, just as importantly, as an information declaration standard linking forward logistics to reverse logistics, which relates to the reuse and recycling of products and materials.”
Much further down the line, Jager envisages possibly working on a joint standard with ISO. “It makes a lot of sense to me. But there are quite a few issues to solve before we get there. One of them is making sure we keep the flexibility provided by the IEC 62474 database which is updated and validated on a regular basis,” he concludes.