EU set to revise law on hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment

The European Commission welcomes today’s vote by the European Parliament to revise legislation on the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment. The draft legislation, proposed by the Commission in 2008, will strengthen the existing law by streamlining procedures for future substance restrictions and by making it coherent with other chemicals legislation1. Today’s vote confirms the first reading agreement with the Council on the revised legislation.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said:
[quote credit=”Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik”]We use more and more electrical and electronic products and we must make sure they have as little impact on the environment and human health as possible – both when we use them and when we throw them away. Today’s vote will lead to a stronger law that is coherent with other pieces of legislation and easier to implement and enforce. Environmental improvements will result from the inclusion of new product categories such as medical devices and monitoring instruments. In the medium to long term this will eliminate the presence of banned substances in these products and in the waste derived from them.”[/quote]

The Directive on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS) has prevented many thousands of tonnes of banned substances from being disposed of and potentially released into the environment since it came into force in 2003. It has led to important changes in the design of electrical and electronic products in the European Union and worldwide and facilitates the recovery of many rare substances and materials used in electronics. This law thus contributes to making the EU more resource-efficient, in line with the Europe 2020 Strategy. RoHS has also served as a model for similar laws introduced in at least 15 other jurisdictions outside the European Economic Area.

RoHS currently covers a vast spectrum of products that use electricity, including small and large household appliances, IT and telecommunications equipment and consumer goods such as radios, TV sets, video cameras and hi-fi systems.

The revised Directive

The revised Directive agreed today aims to improve implementation and enforcement and introduces greater coherence with other EU legislation, such as REACH and the new legislative framework for the marketing of products.

Key elements include:

  • The extension of the scope to all electrical and electronic equipment, including medical devices and monitoring and control instruments.
    Electrical and electronic equipment that was outside the scope of the current RoHS Directive but which will be covered by the revised Directive, does not need to comply with the requirements during a transitional period of 8 years, giving producers time to adapt;
  • A lighter and more effective mechanism for reviewing or amending the list of banned substances is introduced, enabling further substances to be considered on the basis of scientific evidence and specific criteria, and in line with REACH. Changes may then be made through comitology;
  • The rules for granting exemptions from the substance ban are further streamlined to provide legal certainty for the economic operators and to ensure coherence with REACH;
  • Important definitions are clarified to ensure the directive is applied in a harmonised manner throughout the EU.

Better enforcement of the Directive at national level will be achieved through alignment with the marketing of products legislative package.

Next steps

The text voted on today will now need to be formally adopted by the Council. The new Directive will enter into force 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union. Member States will then have 18 months to transpose it into national law. Until then, the existing RoHS Directive (Directive 2002/95/EC) continues to apply.

The Commission will review the changes in scope between the old and new Directive which have not yet been subject to an impact assessment no later than three years after entry into force.

More information

The Commission has made four declarations on scope, review, nanomaterials and correlation tables. To read these and for more information, visit the European Commission webpage on electrical and electronic equipment:

Source: European Commission

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