R2 Legal Requirements

Our desire for the latest and greatest electronic devices has created a mountain of E-Waste. Improper recycling and disposal practices have lead to serious health and environmental impacts, particularly in developing countries (click here for more about the E-Waste Problem).

Social outrage about these human health and environmental impacts has resulted in the development of a number of new regulatory programs – both in the United States and abroad. These typically add more requirements on top of the ones that were already in place as part of the traditional environmental, health and safety regulatory programs, such as those administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT).

This page provides information about the following topics –

Legal Requirements for Electronic Recyclers

Export Restrictions Applicable to E-Waste

Legal Requirements Applicable to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs)


Legal Requirements for Electronics Recyclers

In the United States, there are several layers of legal requirements that must be met – local (e.g. city, county or district), state and federal.  Also, there are different agencies developing regulatory programs, e.g. EPA, OSHA, DOT, SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) and DHS (Department of Homeland Security).

This can make the task of identifying all applicable environmental, health and safety legal requirements very difficult.

That is, however, what Section 3 of the R2 Practices requires.  It states –

An electronics recycler shall comply with all applicable environmental, health and safety and data security legal requirements applicable to its operations ….

(1) An R2:2013 electronics recycler shall develop a legal compliance plan…

(3) The recycler shall keep the legal compliance plan up to date, identify and implement the steps necessary to comply with each requirement and document the implementation of these steps.  It shall also periodically audit its compliance with each requirements and take corrective action to address any issues of non-compliance.

Note – Provisions related to conformance with export requirements have been left out. These are discussed below.

An important point – most of these EHS regulations apply to all organizations – not just organizations that consider themselves electronic recyclers.  Any company that is disposing of end-of-life electronics can trigger many of these EHS compliance obligations.  For example, unless electronic components are recycled, they are likely to be classified as hazardous waste.  Therefore, they cannot simply be thrown in the trash.  The penalties associated with violating EHS regulations can be very costly.

How do you go about putting together an EHS Compliance Plan?

There are four steps –

  1. Identify and document the organization’s applicable legal requirements
  2. Develop processes and procedures to ensure those compliance obligations are met
  3. Develop and implement a process for periodically evaluating  compliance status
  4. Develop and use a process for addressing any non-compliance issues

To find out more about developing an effective EHS Compliance Plan, click here.

For more information about the environmental, health and safety regulations that may be applicable to electronics recyclers, click here to go the R2Resources Page.


Export Restrictions Applicable to E-Waste

 

Because of the significant environmental and human health impacts associated with E-Waste recycling in developing countries (as highlighted in news stories and on website like the Basel Action Network), the R2 Practices include specific export restrictions.

Section 3 (2) of the R2 Practices establishes requirements for identifying and documenting the legal requirements associated with the import and export of Focus Materials, non-functioning equipment and components. Documentation must be kept of the compliance of each shipment made with applicable export and import laws.

Focus Materials are defined as the following materials:  items containing PCBs, items containing mercury, CRTs and CRT glass, batteries and whole and shredded circuit boards (except for whole or shredded circuit boards that do not contain lead solder and have undergone safe and effective mechanical process, or manual dismantling to remove mercury and batteries).

How do you go about putting together an E-Waste Export Compliance Plan?

There are three steps –

  1. Identify and document the organization’s export of Focus Materials, equipment and components – what materials are being sent to which countries
  2. Develop processes and procedures to identify the disposition of any Focus Materials sent to downstream vendors and their export practices – confirm their conformance to applicable export requirements
  3. If Focus Materials are exported, develop and implement a Export Compliance Plan to document the legality of all such exports

For more information about confirming the legality of exports of E-Waste materials, click here.


Legal Requirements Applicable to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs)

In addition to the regulations focused on the proper handling of discarded electronics, there are also a number of regulations that impose impact fees and/or “take back” requirements on electronic manufacturers and distributors.

The most comprehensive of these are the WEEE & ROHS directives promulgated by the European Union (EU).  These directives prohibit the use of certain toxic materials in electronics devices and impose “take-back” provisions on equipment manufacturers.

In the United States, a number of states have enacted mandatory electronics recycling programs that include assessing fees on electronics manufacturers. For more information about these regulatory programs, click here to go to the Electronics Recycling Coordination Clearinghouse (ERCC) website.


Additional Resources

For additional information and links to resources about the identifying environmental and occupational health and safety legal requirements, check out the R2 Resources Page.

Check out the following blog post from www.OHSAS18001expert.com

Identifying Legal and Other Requirements in an OHSMS