On 24 November, the European Parliament voted to revise EU legislation restricting the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (Directive 2002/95/EC) in force since February 2003. The draft legislation, proposed by the European Commission in 2008, will strengthen the existing law by streamlining procedures for future substance restrictions and by making it coherent with other chemicals legislation (REACH).
Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "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.”
The achievement of the present RoHS Directive
The RoHS Directive has prevented many thousands of tonnes of banned substances from being disposed of and potentially released into the environment since it came into force. 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 improvements of the revised Directive
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.
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:
The text voted on 24 November 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.
EU legislation restricting the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (Directive 2002/95/EC) and promoting the collection and recycling of such equipment (Directive 2002/96/EC) has been in force since February 2003. The legislation provides for the creation of collection schemes where consumers return their used e-waste free of charge. The objective of these schemes is to increase the recycling and/or re-use of such products. It also requires heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium and flame retardants such as polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) or polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) to be substituted by safer alternatives.
Despite such rules on collection and recycling only one third of electrical and electronic waste in the European Union is reported as separately collected and appropriately treated. A part of the other two thirds is potentially still going to landfills and to sub-standard treatment sites in or outside the European Union. The collection target of 4 kg per person per year does not properly reflect the amount of WEEE arising in individual Member States. Illegal trade of electrical and electronic waste to non-EU countries continues to be identified at EU borders.
With the new Directive, the Commission proposes to set mandatory collection targets equal to 65% of the average weight of electrical and electronic equipment placed on the market over the two previous years in each Member State. The recycling and recovery targets of such equipment would cover the re-use of whole appliances and weight-base targets would increase by 5%. Targets are proposed also for the recovery of medical devices.
Member States with a high consumption of electrical and electronic equipment would have more ambitious collection targets under the new directive, while others with lower consumption levels would have targets that are appropriately adapted.