The RoHS directive 2011/65/EU (RoHS: “Restriction of Hazardous Substances”) lays down legal limits for certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment. Due to the transformation of the RoHS directive and part of the WEEE directive 2012/19/EU (WEEE: “Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment”) in the Royal Decree of the 17th of March, 2013 for the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment, these RoHS standards fall under the federal competence.
This directive was approved in 2011 by the European Parliament and the Council. As a result the old RoHS legislation (called the directive 2002/95/EC, “RoHS 1”) changed in certain crucial points since 2013. In order to make the difference between the RoHS directives obvious we usually talk about “RoHS 1” and “RoHS 2”.
What is the RoHS directive?
The RoHS legislation sets the maximum concentrations of lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyl (PBBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDEs) in the homogeneous materials of electrical and electronic equipment put onto the market after 1 July 2006. The manufacturer is required to adapt his product, either by using alternatives or by revising the product concept.
These hazardous substances can occur in all sorts of EEE. These EEE contain fewer hazardous substances as a result of the RoHS measures, which in turn means there are fewer problems with management at the end of their life-cycle and the recycling of materials in the EEE becomes safer.
The RoHS measures are set out in ROHS Directive 2011/65/EU of the 8th of June, 2011 on restricting the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment.
Each product on the Belgian market is supposed to comply with the legislation. In order to prove that a product fulfils the requirements, a CE marking must be applied. Therefore, possible other logos or symbols are no proof of compliance with the standards.
In Belgium, the RoHS directive was transformed into the Royal Decree of the 17th of March, 2013, better known as the “RD RoHS”.
The scope of the RoHS legislation is important for producers. These provisions can be found in articles 2 and 4 and Annex I of afore-mentioned Royal Decree of the 17th of March, 2013. Products which fall within the categories of Annex I, are within the scope. An interesting aid in determining whether a product falls within the scope of application of the RoHS Directive, is the 'Manual of Decisions’ (MOD) of the ‘EU RoHS Competent Bodies Network’ (only available in English).
As the title suggests, the manual uses ‘decision trees’ where yes or no answers will eventually lead to the branch where your product belongs. In this way, the MOD can help producers to pinpoint their products within the scope of the RoHS and WEEE legislation. However the manual is not a binding document. It is ultimately up to a European court to decide whether or not a product falls under the scope of application of one or the other directive. Furthermore, this manual was designed with the scope of application of RoHS1. You should therefore take into account the extention of the scope of application of RoHS 2.
The open scope
However, the scope of application of RoHS will change in the coming years. For one thing, new product categories are going to be added to the scope of application of RoHS, as described in article 4 of the Royal Decree. For another, the definition of “electrical and electronic equipment” (EEE) was, indirectly, broadened in the new legislation. All equipment which has at least one electrical function, no matter how small, is now considered EEE. This new definition can be found in article 3 (1) and (2) of the RD RoHS.
Ultimately this will result in 2019 in all EEE falling under the RoHS rules (the so-called “open scope”). After all, in that year all EEE not belonging to the current product categories will be added to the scope of application. This stipulation can be found in articles 4 and 15 of the RD RoHS.
What are the great differences between RoHS 1 and RoHS 2?
The new RoHS directive differs in some fundamental points from RoHS 1. The most important differences are:
• the open scope;
• a new methodology for the application of exceptions and the addition of new substances;
• the coherence with REACHand the New Legislative Framework (NLF).
A new methodology for exemptions
Similar to RoHS 1, technologies may acquire an exception for being allowed to use a certain substance nevertheless. For granting these exemptions, new criteria are stated in article 5 of aforementioned directive 2011/65/EU. These are also assigned a period of validity of maximum 5 years (7 years for EEE in the categories “medical devices” and “measuring and control instruments”). Exemptions can be renewed if no alternative was found before the expiration of the period of validity.
Adding new substances
Although the restricted substances under RoHS 2 are identical to the ones under RoHS 1, member states may propose to add new substances to this list. The Commission will at any rate examine the addition of new substances by 2014.
RoHS 2 remains independent of the REACH regulation (1907/2006). However, with the assessment of new substances, the information from the REACH dossier will be used. Also, in granting exemptions, REACH is taken into account. This way, the coherence between both legislations is enhanced.
New Legislative Framework (NLF)
RoHS 2 follows the NLF and therefore, also requires a CE marking. Products must obtain a Document of Conformity (DoC), in which it is declared that the product complies with the RoHS rules. More information on the NLF can be found on the website of the Commission and in the Commission's guide, the so-called “Blue Guide”. The specific rules for RoHS 2 are then again dealt with in the Commission's RoHS 2 FAQ.