RoHS: Impact study finds positive results, review process has started

The importance of RoHS, the restriction of hazardous substances in electronics, can already be estimated by the fact that the use of hazardous substances has fallen by around 67% since the first version of RoHS was introduced in 2022. With around 9 million tons of electrical and electronic equipment per year, this is a great success. By doing so, it complements the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive to regulate the growing amount of electronic waste and associated pollution.

These findings are the result of a study conducted last year by Ecorys and Ramboll based on secondary research and a consulting strategy. The study was conducted to better evaluate the effectiveness of the RoHS Directive and address potential changes that may be needed.

In general, the study concludes that the directive has achieved the goal of reducing hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment in the EU, thereby protecting human and environmental health. It contributed to the harmonization and functioning of the internal market, by setting clear standards and providing a level playing field for producers of EEE.

Overall, compliance with RoHS is assessed to be high and implementation mechanisms function as intended. Furthermore, RoHS has led to innovation, including finding substitutes for hazardous substances. Nevertheless, the inclusion of medical equipment and monitoring and control instruments in the scope are seen as problematic by industry. While the exemption process is deemed relevant and important to maintain, industry representatives highlighted delays in assessing and approving exemptions. Due to the strong links of RoHS with the EU circular economy policy, it supports safe waste treatment and recycling.

Some industry stakeholders are of the opinion that RoHS could be brought even more in line with the EU´s circular economy policies by providing more room for repair and reuse activities for EEE. On the one hand, the RoHS Directive contributes to the objectives of the circular economy policy. It promotes the use of certain spare parts and reuse of certain recovered spare parts by exemptions in order to facilitate repair of EEE. On the other hand, additional solutions will have to be found to further support recycling and the use of recycled material in new EEE products since it will be difficult to separate or avoid the presence of hazardous substances within the recycling process.

Although RoHS originally focused purely on Europe, it has had a significant impact on the development of regulatory frameworks for hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment in over 40 third countries, including, for example, Brazil, China, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.

Now RoHS is again under review in order to further optimize it and starts with a public consultation open to 2 June 2022. 

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