On March 10, 2022, the European Commission launched a public consultation on the revision of Directive 2011/65/EU on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS Directive). The consultation is open to contributions until June 2, 2022. The results of the consultation will feed into the impact assessment in support of the review of the RoHS directive. The consultation may have a significant impact on EU placing requirements for electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) products. It follows a “call for evidence” launched by the Commission earlier in the year. A legislative proposal for the revision of the RoHS directive is foreseen in the Commission’s 2022 work program for the fourth quarter.
EEE is “equipment that depends on electric currents or electromagnetic fields to function properly and equipment for the generation, transfer and measurement of these currents and fields and designed for use with a nominal voltage not exceeding 1,000 volts for alternating current and 1500 volts for direct current”. This open scope of RoHS (with narrow exceptions and exemptions) includes items such as household appliances, computer and telecommunications equipment, lighting, electrical and electronic tools, toys, leisure and sports equipment, medical devices and monitoring and control instruments, including industrial monitoring and control instruments Consumer and professional EEE are Covered.
The RoHS directive currently limits the use of 10 substances to maximum concentration values for each (fixed by weight in homogeneous materials): lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE), bis( 2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP). All products comprising an electrical and electronic component, unless they benefit from a specific exclusion, must comply with these restrictions. By limiting the use of these substances, the RoHS directive facilitates the recycling of waste EEE (WEEE) covered by Directive 2012/19/EU.
The ongoing public consultation aims to identify areas of the RoHS Directive that should be revised to improve its application, in line with the Circular Economy Action Plan, the Chemicals Sustainability Strategy and the Action Plan zero pollution.
Most importantly, the consultation asks stakeholders to comment on the following questions:
- Should the RoHS Directive be transformed into a directly applicable regulation to address the issues related to the transposition by each EU Member State of the amendments to the current RoHS Directive (g.derogations).
- If the scope of the RoHS directive is to be extended to include radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, EEE designed for use in vehicles but not permanently installed in them (g.car navigation systems) and photovoltaic panels.
- If compliance with the RoHS Directive interferes with compliance obligations under other EU legislation (g.REACH Regulation, Ecodesign Directive and national legislation).
- If, given the circular economy agenda, the current restrictions under the RoHS directive limit, among othersthe supply of WEEE parts and components for the repair of EEE.
- Whether the current exemptions for spare parts recovered from the specified EEE are sufficient.
- Whether the current criteria for assessing exemptions to RoHS restrictions are appropriate and whether it should be possible to allow new exemptions in cases where new technologies coming to the EU market for the first time require the use of restricted substances (provided that there are no acceptable alternatives from the point of view of the environment and human health).
- Whether, given the delays, the timelines for assessing exemptions are appropriate
- Whether the exemption request process and exemption validity and transition periods need to be reviewed.
- Whether the process for reviewing and amending the list of controlled substances needs to be reconsidered.
- If the revision of the RoHS directive must take into account developments in electronic commerce.
- Whether the requirements for the declaration of conformity for EEE need to be reviewed.
In addition, the consultation asks the general public about their willingness to pay for EEE that costs more because of the use of recycled materials or salvaged parts.
As indicated, trade associations, individual companies, NGOs, experts, the general public and any other interested parties will be able to submit comments in response to the 35 specific questions set out in the consultation. It will also be possible to supplement these responses with a position paper of no more than 6 pages. As always, we strongly recommend participation in these consultations, since early expressing reasoned positions is the most effective way to influence the final legislative outcome.