Revised RoHS Directive Adopted in EU

The European Union has officially announced it is tightening the rules banning hazardous substances in electrical and electronics equipment — the environmental measure called RoHS. The revision extends the RoHS directive, which bans six hazardous substances in the EU, to include more electrical appliances. The ban will also now apply to all electrical and electronic equipment, as well as to cables and spare parts.

The revised law, adopted in late May, also requires the EU Commission to regularly review and adapt the list of restricted substances, which currently include lead, mercury, and cadmium. Further substances in electrical and electronic equipment may be banned in future.

According to an EU press release, measures taken within the European Parliament have ensured the adoption of this law. There are still a few steps to go, however: The revised directive still has to be published in the Official Journal of the EU, be transposed into EU member state laws within 18 months, and establish a time frame for industry implementation, according to Design Chain Associates, a manufacturing and environmental consulting firm.

Although RoHS has been in effect since 2005, the clarity of the rule has been a matter of ongoing debate. Certain categories of products are exempt from the ban under the original rule; the rule's language leaves room for interpretation as to which products are specifically excluded.

For the electronics industry, the biggest challenge of RoHS remains the ban of lead from electronics products. Lead historically has been the main component in electronics solders. Lead-solder substitutions don't perform as well as leaded, are more expensive than leaded solders, and require different equipment to achieve melting temperatures and to adhere to printed circuit boards. The industry has also long held that the amount of lead in electronics solders is so minuscule that the environmental impact is negligible.

Nevertheless, the global manufacturing industry has accepted RoHS, and countries outside the EU are adopting similar measures.

For additional information on the EU measures, see the RoHS Recast Corrigendum and the RoHS Recast Addendum.

4 comments on “Revised RoHS Directive Adopted in EU

  1. Daniel
    June 9, 2011

    Barbara I think it’s a good move from EU. Most of the electronic components have the presence of mercury, nickel, cadmium and lead, which are very hazardous to human life. While we are using the appliances, we are not bothered about such side effects because we are considering only the merits of such devices.

    E waste is a very common problem and recently I had read an article about disposing the E-waste from US and EU. According to the article, contractors from these countries are trying to dump such E-waste to under developing nations in Africa and North Eastern Asian countries. They are seeking permission from such countries for dumping biological waste and dumping E-waste, which can create a lots of health related problems, especially breathing problems for children.

    June 9, 2011

    I too am concerned about the Ewaste issue.  I would hate to think the more developed coutries are taking advantage of the less developed countries to push a problem elsewhere and into the future.  Perhaps it will end up like the greenhouse emissions saga where countries trade their allowances as a means of flouting regulations. 

  3. SunitaT
    June 11, 2011

    Certain categories of products are exempt from the ban under the original rule; the rule's language leaves room for interpretation as to which products are specifically excluded.

    I wish the debate on clarity of the rule gets over soon so that there is no room for ambiguity. Because if there is any ambiguity the strict implementation of the rule is not possible.

  4. Barbara Jorgensen
    June 13, 2011

    I absolutely agree that the law needs as much clarification as possible. I also agree that from the beginning, RoHS has been a standard that the rest fo the world is beginning to follow. Once RoHS irons out the kinks in its implementation, we'll be able to see if the enforcement actually has teeth. That's the only way global manufacturing will conform.

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