October 20, 2019

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Circular Economy & Product Design Mandates: EU Bans Halogenated Flame Retardants in Electronic Components and Imposes Reparability Obligations

The European Commission (EC) has adopted a new set of eco-design requirements for ten categories of energy-consuming products, including refrigerators, washing machines, and televisions pursuant to the Ecodesign Directive (2009/125/EC). Under the new Ecodesign Regulations for Electronic Displays, the use of halogenated flame retardants in electronic display enclosures and stands will be prohibited effective March 1, 2021. The new Ecodesign Regulations applicable to electronic displays and certain categories of household appliances will also impose reparability requirements on manufacturers and importers of covered products placed on the market in the EU beginning March 1, 2021.

Ban on the Use of Halogenated Flame Retardants and New Information Disclosure Obligations

Annex II of the new Ecodesign Regulations for Electronic Displays, adopted by the EC on October 1, 2019, impose a new set of “material efficiency” requirements on covered electronic displays, effective March 1, 2021. Under Point D, Paragraph 4 of Annex II, the use of halogenated flame retardants will be prohibited in the enclosures and stands of electronic displays. “Halogenated flame retardants” is defined in the Regulation as a flame retardant (i.e., “a substance that markedly retards the propagation of a flame”) containing any halogen. The Regulation will apply to all electronic displays, including digital signage displays, computer monitors and televisions, with a screen area greater than 100 square centimeters (or 15.5 square inches).

According to the EC, this prohibition is necessary to address recycling issues caused by the presence of halogenated flame retardants in the plastic components of electronic displays. Several industry groups have opposed the ban, arguing that its adoption was procedurally flawed and questioning whether the EC has the legal authority to restrict chemical substances under the Ecodesign Directive.

The new Ecodesign Regulations for Electronic Displays also impose marking requirements on manufacturers and importers that are aimed at informing the public of the chemicals contained within certain component parts of covered electronics. The new marking requirements include the following obligations:

  • Marking plastic components to specify the type of polymer used.

  • Marking plastic components to specify the use of flame retardants (by using the symbol “FR”).

  • Marking electronic displays to indicate whether the screen panel contains cadmium in certain specified amounts. If any homogenous material part of an electronic display contains cadmium in a concentration by weight exceeding 0.01%, as defined in the EU RoHS Directive, the product must be affixed with a “Cadmium inside” logo. If the concentration values are below 0.01% by weight, the product must be affixed with a “Cadmium free” logo.

These new restrictions in the EU targeting halogenated flame retardants follow a 2017 U.S. Consumer Protection Safety Commission announcement of intention to restrict the use of halogenated flame retardants in certain types of consumer products, including electronic casings. More recently, the Washington Department of Ecology also announced that organhalogen flame retardants in electronics are on its preliminary list of chemical-product combinations that will be evaluated for potential priority designation under the state’s new Safer Products for Washington Program.

Right-to-Repair Obligations

The new Ecodesign Regulations for Electronic Displays, Household Refrigerators, Dishwashers, Washing Machines and Washer-Driers, and Refrigerating Appliances with a Direct Sales Function also impose reparability requirements on manufacturers and importers of covered products. The new requirements, which go into effect on March 1, 2021, generally fall into three categories:

  • The availability of specified spare parts, which must be made available to end users and professional repairers for certain minimum time periods.

  • Access to specified repair and maintenance information for use by professional repairers to enable maintenance work on covered products.

  • Information availability requirements on free access websites that include, among other things, detailed instruction manuals, and the availability of software and firmware updates for use by end users and third parties.

According to the EC’s press release on the new EcoDesign Regulations, the Regulations’ reparability requirements are the first of their kind in the EU and are intended to contribute the EU’s “circular economy objectives by improving the life span, maintenance, re-use, upgrade, recyclability and waste handling of appliances.”

© 2019 Beveridge & Diamond PC

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About this Author

Ryan J. Carra, Environmental Attorney, Beveridge & Diamond Law Firm
Associate

Ryan Carra utilizes his extensive technical background to assist in counseling clients in the electronics, chemicals, and energy sectors regarding a variety of environmental regulatory issues.  Ryan has advised on questions relating to waste classification, chemical hazard classification, chemical notification requirements, and requirements relating to radiation-emitting equipment both domestically and abroad.  Specifically, Ryan is well versed in international agreements relating to materials restrictions and waste, such as the Basel and Minamata Conventions.

Ryan has reviewed...

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Aminah Famili litigation lawyer Beveridge Diamond
Associate

Aminah always puts her clients’ needs and objectives at the forefront, providing them with consistently on-point analyses and novel legal arguments.

She focuses her practice on regulatory compliance counseling and environmental enforcement defense matters. She helps clients in a wide range of industries, including consumer product, retail, technology, and power generation, navigate through environmental regulatory schemes at the federal, state and local level. She has a sharp legal mind and is able to synthesize and translate complex regulations and legal analyses into easy-to-understand language.

Aminah has experience with matters arising under a variety of federal environmental laws including the CAA, CERCLA, CWA, EPCRA, FIFRA, and RCRA. She also has significant experience with California-specific regulatory schemes, including California’s hazardous waste and materials management requirements, Extended Producer Responsibility legislation, and Proposition 65.

In addition to her regulatory practice, Aminah has successfully represented clients in civil and administrative enforcement proceedings, contaminated property litigation, citizen suits and administrative permitting challenges.

    Aminah enjoys the ever-changing and thought-provoking nature of practicing law.

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    K. Russell LaMotte, Environmental Law Attorney, Beveridge Diamond Law Firm
    Principal

    Mr. LaMotte helps multinational companies navigate international environmental regulatory regimes and multi-jurisdictional product compliance regulatory matters.  He served for over ten years as an international lawyer at the U.S. Department of State, representing the U.S. Government in designing, negotiating or implementing most of the major multilateral environmental and oceans agreements.  He also served as a clerk for the Hon. Judith Rogers, U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

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