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Plans to Amend Scope of Rohs Directive Nears Fruition

Hong Kong traders should be aware that the European Commission expects to adopt a formal proposal during the second quarter of 2016, in order to amend the scope of Directive 2011/65/EU on the restriction of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (more commonly known as the RoHS Directive).

On 20 January 2016, the European Commission published a roadmap outlining its proposed changes to the scope of the RoHS Directive. This will be of particular interest to electronic goods manufacturers exporting to the European Union. Once the formal proposal has been adopted, it will be submitted to the European Parliament and the EU Council for their approval.

Hong Kong traders may recall the adoption of the recast RoHS Directive in 2011, which applies to a broader scope of products than the original RoHS Directive of 2002 (now repealed). However, the recast Directive provides for a transitional regime, for those products which are henceforth included in its scope, but which were not in scope at the time of the original Directive (these are the so-called “products newly in scope”).

Such products, should they not comply with the RoHS requirements, are nonetheless allowed to be placed and circulated on the EU market until 22 July 2019. That said, for certain specific product categories, the transitional system ends on a different date (22 July 2016 for in-vitro medical devices, 22 July 2017 for industrial monitoring and control instruments, and 22 July 2014 for other medical devices and monitoring and control instruments).

Studies have shown that once the transitional arrangement ends, a number of undesirable effects will arise under the existing legislative framework, which should be remedied by the Commission’s proposed changes.

First, the current wording of the RoHS Directive would not allow for products newly in scope to be resold or refurbished after 22 July 2019. Normally, the RoHS restrictions only apply to products when they are first placed on the EU market, and if compliant at that time, they can be resold without restrictions. Under the transitional system, products newly in scope can be placed on the market even though they are non-compliant. However, since they are still considered non-compliant at the time they are being placed on the market, secondary market operations (resale or refurbishing) would not be permitted after 22 July 2019.

Secondly, the use of original spare parts for those non-compliant products newly in scope would be prohibited after 22 July 2019, with the exception of medical devices, and monitoring and control instruments. For the latter categories, a specific provision of the RoHS Directive does allow for the use of spare parts beyond the duration of the transitional system.

The Commission acknowledges that a sudden prohibition of resale or repair of the products that are newly in scope runs counter to the principle that extending the life of electrical and electronic equipment is both economically and environmentally beneficial. As a result, the Commission intends to ensure that these products are fully covered by the scope of the RoHS Directive, and that the use of original spare parts will remain possible.

A third issue identified relates to pipe organs. These products were not covered by the original Directive, but do fall under the scope of the recast, i.e., the current RoHS Directive. As a result, they will need to comply with the RoHS restrictions by 22 July 2019, when the transitional period ends. However, it appears that unresolvable compliance problems arise for this particular product, due to the amount of lead alloy required by it (one of the restricted substances under the RoHS Directive).

Given the small turnover of pipe organs and the high degree of recycling of pipe material, the Commission proposes to exclude them from the scope of the RoHS Directive, without foreseeable environmental or social problems.

As Hong Kong manufacturers of electronics may know, the RoHS Directive also provides for the possibility of requests to the Commission for granting, renewing or revoking exemptions from the RoHS restrictions. Following three recent requests for the renewal of existing exemptions, a consortium of consultancies has, in a report of 21 January 2016, recommended that the Commission accept the requests. The consultants’ report recommends that the Commission renew the exemptions for:

  • Lead in bearing shells and bushes for refrigerant-containing hermetic scroll compressors with a stated electrical power input equal or below 9kW for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) applications. It is now recommended that the exemption should expire on 21 July 2019;
  • Lead in White Glasses Used for Optical Applications. It is now recommended that the exemption should expire between 21 July 2021 and 21 July 2024, depending on the type of product;
  • Lead in ion coloured optical filter glass types, or cadmium in striking optical filter glass types or lead and cadmium in glazes used for reflectance standards, excluding cadmium used in LEDs for illumination or displays; as well as cadmium and lead in filter glasses and glasses used for reflectance standards. It is now recommended that the exemption should expire between 21 July 2021 and 21 July 2024, depending on the type of product.

Another request, concerning lead in solders for radio frequency switching matrices and associated telecommunications equipment, was withdrawn by the applicant before a decision was reached.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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