Journal of SMT Article

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES IN ELECTRONICS ASSEMBLY

Author: Greg Munie
Company: Lucent Technologies
Date Published: 1/1/2000   Volume: 13-1

Abstract: The time has come for a new paradigm to be embraced by the electronics industry and governmental bodies. In the past, environmental regulation has centered on laws that, while well-intentioned and addressing real environmental issues, were often "conceived in isolation" and gave no thought to the larger impact they may have on the environment and society.

This paper reviews the current status of legislation and proposes an alternative to the old way of environmental thinking and regulation. This alternate is a system's level approach based on concepts of "Green Manufacturing," also known as "Industrial Ecology". Industrial ecology takes into consideration the overall environmental impact of any decision made about such issues as materials and energy use. The intent is to optimize use of resources and yield the greatest environmental benefit. Thus no factor in the manufacturing process is considered in isolation. Rather the overall balance of factors is used in environmental decision making.

As an example, the industrial ecology method is applied to the issue of lead in electronic solder. It is shown that, based on current data, a move to lead free soldering may not be environmentally beneficial. Thus legislation under consideration now may result in a degradation of the environment at significant cost to the electronic industry infrastructure.

To insure that this larger mode of thinking becomes a reality, a series of steps in the improvement of the relations between the electronics industry and government regulators is proposed. Examples of constructive government-industry interaction are presented to bolster the argument that we, as an industry, can do better environmentally through cooperation and an "industrial ecology" way of thinking.



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