RoHS Recast at a Glance

 The Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS) was adopted by the European Union in 2003 and took effect in 2006.  The RoHS restricts the use of six hazardous substances (lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls, and polybrominated biphenyl ethers) in the manufacture of electronics and electronic equipment (EEE).  Penalties for non-compliance vary by country but can include stiff penalties, goods recall and prison time.   The original cost to implement this directive was $32 billion dollars worldwide, with another $3 billion annually to maintain compliance. 

 In 2008, an assessment by the European Commission showed that up to 44% of EEE checked were not fully compliant.  The National Weights and Laboratories claimed that “99% of products were 99% compliant” (or in other words, only 1% complied fully). 

 So in an attempt to reduce costs, resolve uncertainties and increase enforcement, in 2008 the European Commission announced plans to recast the RoHS Directive.  The intention of the RoHS Recast is not to simply amend the original RoHS; the intention is that it will effectively repeal and replace it.

 So the RoHS recast has been several years in the making.  The consolidated text was adopted on November 24, 2010 but does not become law until the text is approved by the Council of the European Union and published in the Official Journal of the European Union.  

 I know most of you do NOT want to read the entire 46 pages of the RoHS Recast, so here are the major points of interest:

 What’s the Same:

  • - The original six restricted substances and their maximum concentration values allowed (100 ppm by weight of homogeneous material for cadmium, 1000 ppm for all others).  However, Annex II requires a re-evaluation in three years, and several more substances are likely to be restricted at that time.

 What’s Changed:

  • - The scope now includes Category 8 (Medical Devices) and Category 9 (Monitoring and Control Instruments) which were originally exempt. 
  • - The scope also includes a totally new “catch-all” category.  Category 11 EEE (“Other” EEE not covered by any of the other categories) must comply within 8 years. 
  • - There are changes to the exemption process, and these are covered in Annex III, IV, and V.   
  • - Manufactures must not only build compliant products.  They must maintain technical documentation, cite relevant harmonized standards, implement internal production controls, and keep a register of nonconforming products for ten years after the EEE is placed on the market
  • - In the original RoHS, only the manufacturer was responsible for compliance.  The RoHS Recast places obligations on each party in the supply chain including manufacturers, importers, and distributors. 
  • - A CE Mark is required on the finished product.  This visible indicator of compliance makes it possible to stop products at the border.
  • - In addition to the CE Mark, an EC declaration of conformity must accompany the finished product. 
  • - EEE not manufactured in the EU must have an EU importer who shares responsibility with the manufacturer for compliance

With each member of the supply chain now responsible for compliance, it’s more important than ever to work with trustworthy suppliers.  In addition to accepting a “conformity certificate” from your supplier, there needs to be a risk assessment of the quality of that information, and if you buy from an unqualified vendor, you must be prepared to do your own compliance testing.