The RoHS Directive

Background

In 1998, the European Union discovered that alarmingly large amounts of hazardous waste were being dumped into landfill sites. Trends also indicated that the volumes were likely to grow 3-5 times faster than average municipal waste. This highlighted a massive, and growing, source of environmental contamination.

In order to address the issues this information raised, the member states of the EU decided to create the Waste Electrical and Electronics Equipment (WEEE) directive, whose purpose was to:

i. Improve manufacturers’ designs, to reduce the creation of waste
ii. Make manufacturers responsible for certain phases of waste management
iii. Separate collections of electronic waste (From other types of waste)
iv. Create systems to improve treatment, refuse, and recycling of WEE

The WEEE directive provided the origins of the current forthcoming legislation. However, since 1998 a draft proposal called EEE (Environment of Electrical & Electronics Equipment) was also introduced along the same lines. Now, as the implementation of this policy becomes imminent, this policy is generally referred to as the ROHS Directive.

What is ROHS?

The ROHS directive is often referred to as “Lead-Free” legislation. This is not a very accurate nickname, because it extends to other pollutants as well. The proper name for ROHS is:

Directive 2002/95/EC
“The restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment”
And it applies to the following substances:

· Lead
· Mercury
· Cadmium
· Hexavalent Chromium
· PBB
· PDBE

In order to comply with the EU ROHS legislation all of these substances must either be removed, or must be reduced to within maximum permitted concentrations, in any products containing electrical or electronic components that will be sold within the European Union.