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A well-conceived program can save money and materials.
Developing an EMS (Environmental Management System) can be beneficial to an electronics manufacturing services company. Benefits include monitoring and complying to regulatory requirements, setting and completing environmental objectives and pollution prevention. By setting either an objectives oriented program or a continuous improvement program, an organization can reduce costs and receive potential cost paybacks for activities such as recycling.
An EMS is a management system that creates processes to evaluate and control its environmental impacts and aspects, and comply with local, state and federal regulatory requirements. Many resources are available through state and federal environmental websites to develop an EMS. Upon development, certification can be achieved from the International Standards Organization (ISO).
Monitoring and compliance to regulatory requirements. The environmental regulations landscape continues to be very dynamic with state, local, federal (EPA) and electronics industry-related rules such as RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) and REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals). By setting up a system, a facility can monitor and comply with the constantly changing regulations in the US, Europe and the world.
The initial step is to catalog and make a list of the permits and reports, such as air release permit, water discharge, hazardous waste permits and reports, etc. Link the permit and report to the agency and regulation that governs the requirement. Upon making the list, verify the regulatory requirements. This can be accomplished by reviewing the requirement on the state or federal website (epa.gov) or by attending workshops. The EPA provides training on such matters as TRI (Toxic Release Inventory) compliance. This workshop helps businesses prepare the TRI report, which contains a facility’s evaluation of its materials handling and determination if a release threshold has been surpassed. As an example, for EMS companies, if 100 lb. of lead solder is used and released to the environment by offsite storage (manifested hazardous waste) or through recycling activities, a report must be completed and submitted to the EPA and state. Global environmental regulation updates can be received differently; workshops are available through trade organizations or by electronic update exchanges.
As a part of the compliance system, a review can be conducted of what was learned or changed and how it impacts the manufacturing facility. This review or audit can be completed after each workshop or on a yearly basis.
Environmental objectives and pollution prevention. Reducing facility impacts to the environment can be achieved by deploying an environmental objectives program. Examples of environmental impacts include release to air, water and soil and are usually regulated by the facility’s environmental permits and reports. This program can be incorporated into existing quality improvement or Lean manufacturing processes. Consider pollution prevention, waste minimization and green design when incorporating new processes, products or materials. A major component of an effective objectives program is recycling.
Recycling opportunities. Many opportunities exist to recycle within an EMS company. The foundation of recycling begins with glass, plastic bottles, paper products and cardboard. The recycling of printed circuit assemblies, subassemblies, mechanical hardware, components and solder may result in a payback for the metals extracted and refined. Diligence is required before deeming the material recyclable, given hazardous substances and state and federal regulations. Recyclers will shred the item and extract the metals such as tin, copper, silver, etc., which, given current metal prices, may provide a cost payback. Solder dross (lead and lead-free) is one example of material that can be recycled, given its characteristics and metal content. Other opportunities include computer equipment, printers, packaging materials and scrap metal, such as piping, tooling and fixtures.