January 24, 2019
Ken Lalley, CEO of Static Control Components, has spoken to The Recycler about the ongoing DecaBDE scandal, which has seen illegal levels of the prohibited substance found in multiple companies’ cartridge casings.
Recycler: When was the issue first raised and what actions did you take to ascertain the scope of the problem?
SC: We were first alerted to the problem after the Digital Imaging article published. As soon as we heard the allegations, we immediately contacted a third-party, independent laboratory in Germany to conduct testing on both our cartridges and components used in remanufactured cartridges. Our plastics are made in-house as well as sourced from a variety of vendors. Our in-house plastics are made from DecaBDE-free materials and our vendor contracts require our vendors to certify their products are RoHS and REACH compliant, in addition to other environmental regulations. It was important for us to get to the bottom of the issue quickly.
Recycler: What were the results of your tests?
SC: As we publically stated in December, the investigation revealed the majority of our cartridges complied with all applicable environmental regulations and a very limited number of cartridges tested positive for DecaBDE, a fire-retardant chemical.
However, the test results were inconsistent with what was reported in the original article. Our test results showed some of the Static Control cartridge models alleged to contain excessive levels of DecaBDE were actually found to be compliant with the regulations. Albeit the original article was based on a very small sample, we used the same models for our tests.
The inconsistent test results required us to investigate more thoroughly. Static Control actually decided to test beyond just our cartridges; we decided to conduct an audit and test the plastic parts on our entire component line. The issue appears to be related to the use of recycled plastics. DecaBDE is used currently quite legally in some cases in permissible levels to allow for the reuse of plastics.
In addition, we tested offerings from a broad selection of the industry with both cartridges and components, including – as you would expect – some of our competitors. DecaBDE was found in the vast majority of the industry cartridge and component samples tested and in most of the competitor cartridges submitted to our laboratory. These results indicate that the presence of DecaBDE is widespread and endemic in the industry, and affects compatible cartridges, remanufactured cartridges and components.
As soon as we discovered that DecaBDE was a far-reaching problem, we discussed the implications of our testing with ETIRA. We’re sure ETIRA will have more to say about this issue moving forward in the coming weeks. However, our tests showed members of both ETIRA and the German Recycling Association had product with higher than permissible levels of the chemical. We will provide results to those customers that we believe face the same challenges we did in the coming days.
Recycler: To your understanding, what is the law concerning the use of DecaBDE in toner cartridges?
SC: When RoHS went into effect in 2002, it did not apply to consumables including toner cartridges. Also, DecaBDE was originally exempted from RoHS but was added in 2008 as the result of a court decision.
RoHS was “recast” in 2012 (RoHS 2). Even under this new version of RoHS, it was believed that toner cartridges were not covered. However, in April 2014 the EU published a “Frequently Asked Questions” document where, for the first time, it was specifically stated that toner cartridges were Electronic and Electrical Equipment (EEE) and thus subject to RoHS DecaBDE limitation.
The RoHS 2 regulation provided that EEE not covered by the original RoHS could still be sold in the EU until 22 July 2019—which most understood to allow the sale of toner cartridges containing DecaBDE until that date. Yet, not all the EU countries used the 22 July 2019 phase in date. In Germany, toner cartridges (and the DecaBDE limitations) were covered at least by August 2018 when the German ElectroG Act came into force. As of January 2019, toner cartridges are considered as EEE (and thus are subject to the DecaBDE limitations) in most of the EU.
The REACH regulation will prohibit DecaBDE in all products (not just EEE) put on the market in the EU after 2 March 2019. However, to be clear – there is no REACH implication for DecaBDE for EEE prior to March 2019 in Germany or anywhere else in the EU.
Further, the Waste Electronical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) requires that EEE is disposed of in a separate waste stream. So if cartridges are disposed of in accordance with the WEE regulation, they will be recycled and not entered into the waste system. Static Control is registered as a producer under WEEE.
Recycler: What corrective actions have you taken?
SC: We’ve implemented more stringent testing to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again. We are well aware that our in-house made plastic and the majority of our vendors fully meet the RoHS and REACH requirements. We plan to test random samples of plastic moving forward to ensure our vendors remain compliant. Our vendor agreement is clear in setting provisions for providing RoHS and REACH compliant materials.
Recycler: Are your products “clean” at this time?
SC: Since our December statement, Static Control’s European cartridge offering has been free of DecaBDE. After our in-depth audit of all our plastics, I’m happy to say that all components sold in Europe also comply with RoHS and REACH standards.
Throughout this whole investigation, we’ve been as transparent as possible with our customers. If any of our customers have any direct questions, we encourage them to contact their sales representative to discuss their concerns.
Recycler: How big an issue do you think this is for the industry in general?
SC: As we determined from our testing, the issue is widespread and impacts compatible cartridges, remanufactured cartridges and components. At Static Control, we are taking the necessary steps to ensure that we are and remain fully compliant and encourage all to do the same.
Recycler: From your experience, what advice can you offer others who find themselves in a similar situation?
SC: Despite having the most rigorous testing and vendor qualification process, mistakes can happen. We’ve taken this whole experience and learned from it. The DecaBDE issue has raised questions for our industry as a whole, affecting suppliers of compatible cartridges, remanufactured cartridges and components. We must all look at our offerings and work together to hold plastics suppliers to the standards set forth in the environmental regulations.
To our customers, we want to say that we take every measure possible to ensure we are compliant with all the necessary regulations around the world. Your Static Control sales representative can guide you through any questions or concern you may have.
Recycler: Many thanks to Ken Lalley for taking the time to answer our questions.
Categories : Around the Industry