IPC Symposium on Electronics and the Environment: It's Not Easy Being Green, July 16-17, 2008, Boston (Cambridge), USA

Under the heading "It's not easy going green", the symposium attracted speakers from OEMs, associations, consultancy and service organizations, polymer and flame retardants producers, test houses, US EPA, academia, and last not least, about 180 attendees.

The main topics on the agenda were new regulations, requirements, and eco-conscious electronics design for environment and green chemistry. The focus was on the promotion of halogenfree products and the elimination of brominated flame retardants and PVC.

The first day's presentations started with industry programs on green electronics, followed by an overview on worldwide restrictions on hazardous substances, climate change and energy conservation, US recycling regulations, and REACH.

A block covering eco-conscious electronics design and green chemistry started with a presentation on the "GreenScreen" approach to evaluating alternative chemicals and explained a study on the environmental impact of decabromodiphenyl ether vs. resorcinol bis diphenyl phosphate (RDP) and bisphenol A bis diphenyl phosphate (BDP). After a paper on ecolabels, a supply chain panel discussion on "how green is impacting your business" with participants from Sun Microsystems, TTM Technologies and Benchmark Electronics followed. The panel discussion highlighted the need for suppliers to document, test and communicate their use of chemical substances. Currently, there is no globally accepted system for managing all this information in place.

The second day focused on halogen free update with presentations and panel discussions specific to halogen free products and flame retardants. Starting by an overview of the current situation on regulations, risk assessments, etc., regarding brominated flame retardants, an OEM panel discussion on roadmaps (Sony, Apple, and Lenovo) took place. The statements were quite different and ranged between the wish to provide products which make customers feel better, the exemption of reactive tetrabromobisphenol A from the halogen free commitment, and a ban of halogens Cl and Br defined by total concentration < 900 ppm each, and < 1500 ppm in total.

Presentations on ongoing projects for halogenfree electronics followed:

  • Printed Circuit board Flame Retardants DfE, US Environmental Protection Agency EPA
  • High Density Package User Group HDPUG halogenfree research on electronic products
  • IPC Low Halogen Electronics Standard will define two performance levels for electronics
    declared as halogenfree, the current draft proposes:
    class 1: < 900 ppm organically bound Cl or Br (i.e. PVC, brominated flame retardants)
    class 2: < 900 ppm total Cl or Br (including inorganic)
  • International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative iNEMI brominated flame retardants-free
    printed circuit board material evaluation project

The symposium showed the strong interest in halogenfree concepts for electronics in the USA and gave a good overview of the work achieved so far.