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European Parliament Objects to Cadmium Exemption in Illumination and Display Lighting Applications, Commonly Used in LCD Screens

On 27 September 2016, an objection from the European Parliament to an exemption for cadmium use in illumination and display lighting applications under EU Directive 2011/65 restricting hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (“RoHS2”) was published in the EU’s Official Journal.

Common examples of such display lighting and illumination applications are LCD screens, which are used in televisions or desktop computers.

The Commission had received an application from US-based company QD Vision requesting an extension of the cadmium exemption under RoHS2. At the same time, LCD display manufacturer 3M Optical Systems Division asked the Commission for an exemption for cadmium in light control materials used for display devices. As both applications referred to cadmium use in quantum dots - the nanomaterials used in TV and mobile phone displays - the Commission, along with the Öko-Institut, a leading nanotechnology industries association, decided to assess the applications together.

Hong Kong business operators of electronic equipment may already know that once an exemption is granted for a particular application under RoHS2, it applies across the board to all producers, and not just to those that requested it. Hence, the importance of granting the exemption cannot be underestimated.

On 30 January 2015, the Commission adopted a draft delegated Directive in response to the two requests. The draft delegated Directive divided the cadmium exemption into two parts, allowing (a) cadmium use in solid state illumination, which it proposed to extend until 30 June 2017 in order to ensure legal certainty for the illumination sector, and (b) the use of cadmium in downshifting cadmium-based semiconductor nanocrystal quantum dots for use in display lighting applications, which it proposed to extend until 30 June 2018.

The draft delegated Directive was then sent to the EU Council of ministers and the European Parliament, which have the power to object to such legislation. Although the Council accepted the draft Directive, the Parliament decided to object based on changes in market conditions, especially those relating to cadmium-free products becoming available during 2015.

The MEPs issuing the objection explained that alternatives existed to cadmium quantum dots which had similar energy saving and colour performance properties. It was especially highlighted that a leading TV manufacturer had placed a new line of televisions on the EU market based on cadmium-free quantum dots, available at major retail outlets in several Member States including Germany, the UK and Belgium. According to the Parliament, televisions with cadmium quantum dots seem to no longer be present on the EU market.

The Parliament took into account the fact that the Commission explicitly stated that quantum dot (cadmium and cadmium-free) LEDs for lighting were not available yet and admitted that therefore the positive environmental impact of the exemption could not be demonstrated. The objection was further supported (according to the Parliament) by the opinion of the independent consultants who assessed the applications on behalf of the Commission and concluded that the information provided did not allow a conclusion that an exemption for lighting would be justified at present, and therefore explicitly recommended against it.

The Parliament called on the Commission to submit a new draft delegated Directive taking into account its position. The Commission replied to the Parliament’s objection by stating that it would update its previous assessment including through a stakeholder consultation, in order to issue a new draft Directive on the exemption requests concerned.

The stakeholder consultation took place between 30 October 2015 and 8 January 2016, allowing interested parties to contribute to the re-evaluation of the Commission’s exemption request.

On 17 May 2016, the Öko-Institut prepared a report for the Commission, entitled “Assistance to the Commission on Technological Socio-Economic and Cost-Benefit Assessment Related to Exemptions from the Substance restrictions in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHS Directive)", which summarises the re-evaluation of the two requests for exemption relating to applications of cadmium-based quantum dots.

Please click on the following for the abovementioned report. Traders interested in the European Parliament’s objections can click on the following to view its resolution.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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