New environmental Challenge To Israeli High Tech Exports to the EU: New European WEEE and RoHS Regulations
"Globes" Israel's Business Newspaper
Tzvi Levinson, attorney at law
New Challenge To Israeli High Tech Exports to the EU: New European WEEE and RoHS Regulations Whether they export computers, telephones, semiconductors, refrigerators, or other high-tech products, Israeli manufacturers and exporters will now have to deal with an entirely new world of regulations in the European Union. The EU is currently in the process of implementing regulations involving both waste from electric and electronic equipment (“WEE”) and restriction of hazardous substances (“RoHS”). These new regulations seek to eliminate waste from high-tech products as wel as some of the more environmentally unfriendly substances that are often used in high-tech manufacturing. The EU’s WEEE Directive provides for cradle-to-grave producer responsibility for electric and electronic items including computer components (such as computer screens and circuitboards), cellular phones, washing machines, and even refrigerators, which by sheer volume count for a large percentage of WEEE. The new rules mean an immensely costly new liability for Israeli exporters to the EU. The new rules of the game? You export it to the EU, you pay for its collection and disposal. Collection and disposal literally means “take-back” responsibility for most items, and the costs of transportation mean that Israeli companies will need to seek creative solutions to reuse, recycle, and eliminate equipment components, including lead, plastics, and an array of difficult-to-separate substances. Part of the challenge is developing products that are relatively easily disposable, avoiding unnecessary costs wherever possible. An additional element of the challenge arises from the need to work with the Europeans to develop less costly disposal methods. For both kinds of initiatives, time is of the essence: Israeli importers must be in compliance with these new rules in just over a year, by August 13, 2005. Meanwhile, the RoHS Directive mandates the elimination of certain hazardous substances common in high-tech items. Substances like cadmium in batteries and polybrominated flame retardants must be entirely eliminated. Israeli exporters beware: Your products may soon become illegal in the EU – an un-exportable -- unless you change them to comply with the new law. Israeli exporters must comply within two years, by July 1, 2006, or risk being banned from the European market. As the deadlines suggest, there is still time to comply with these initiatives, provided Israeli exporters act immediately and sensibly to solve these issues before they hurt exports. Unfortunately, most players in the Israeli high-tech sector are unprepared for the coming European regulatory challenges, either ignorant of the new Directives or unable to cope with their complexities. The extensive preparations that both European, American, and East Asian companies are taking are virtually unheard of here in Israel. Israeli exporters would do well to take notice and preventative measures now, while there is still time, or risk losing market share to their competitors abroad.