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Q&A: Walter Jager, leader in environmental standardization for electronic products

July 15, 2021

Q&A: Walter Jager, leader in environmental standardization for electronic products

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Interview
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Walter Jager specializes in finding solutions for environmental compliance and sustainability. He is the principal consultant and founder of ECD Compliance. Walter chaired the Canadian mirror committee for the IEC technical committee on Environmental Standardization for Electronics (IEC/TC 111) from 2005 until 2020.

Q.

What are some of Canada’s key contributions to advancing the work of IEC/TC 111?

A.

Canada does a lot! We help lead the strategic development of standards that minimize the environmental impacts of technology. These requirements help manufacturers, especially small and medium-sized enterprises that don’t have huge purchasing power. For example, by developing supply chain standards that meet environmental requirements, we help companies ensure their products are compliant with international market needs.

Canada also provides guidance on removing harmful substances from products and calculating recyclability of electrical products, which promotes the circular economy. Canada has a strong participation in IEC’s advisory group on environmental standardization strategy and influence in driving environmental performance through harmonized standards.

We also promote the marketing of environmental standards and their benefits. For example, I maintain a blog on the international standard for Material declaration for products of and for the electrotechnical industry (IEC 62474). An American colleague and I co-lead the International validation team that regularly updates the IEC 62474 online database of harmful and reportable substances that are relevant to the electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) industry.

 

Q.

How can industry leaders leverage standards to advance sustainability and grow the circular economy?

A.

By actually using the standards, they can harmonize requirements that will assist with business advancement. The key element here is achieving the circularity of materials so we don’t have to keep using new materials. This will decrease emissions and waste. To do this, we need to use less hazardous materials by incorporating the three Rs: reducing is best, reusing second, and recycling third. There are several standards that help track and gather information to find ways to recycle hazardous materials. Companies can use this information to lessen their impact and promote a circular economy.

IEC/TC 111 also has an eco-design standard that outlines how to improve environmental performance of products through design and is working on a guidance document on how to improve material circularity in EEE products. Eco-design needs a systematic approach, especially when trade-offs arise between environmental improvement measures, product safety and product performance. The committee also has a number of standards on how to test for hazardous substances. Harmonized test methods were an early priority for TC 111 given discrepancies in test results between suppliers, customers, and enforcement authorities. Applying these International standards can really help make products more sustainable, and ensure products can be reused, refurbished and remanufactured, recycled etc.

 

Q.

What are some of the mirror committee’s top priorities for the next five years?

A.

The advisory group is currently developing our strategic plan for the next five years. A big part are the standards around environmental assessment and the standards to assist circular economy. They focus on product durability to increase life span and ability to repair, material efficiency, life cycle assessment (LCA), and measuring carbon footprint of products, emission reductions and avoided emissions. We also have an upcoming project to develop a framework for sustainable management of e-waste, including reuse and recycling.

 

Participation in international technical committees allows experts to shape standards that impact them. Find more opportunities to get involved in standardization activities.

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