Restriction of Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHS)

The amount of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) generated every year in the European market is increasing rapidly. It is now one of the fastest growing waste streams.

The rise in the production and use of electrical and electronic products, such as mobile phones, computers and kitchen appliances, has resulted in an increasing volume of electrical and electronic waste. During the use, collection, treatment and disposal of such waste, products may release harmful (hazardous) substances such as lead, mercury and cadmium, which can cause major environmental and health problems.

To address such challenges, EU laws restrict the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment through the RoHS Directive. In parallel, the WEEE promotes the collection and recycling of such equipment.

The RoHS Directive currently restricts the use of ten substances: lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE), bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP).

All products with an electrical and electronic component, unless specifically excluded, have to comply with these restrictions.

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Q & A:

  • What are the potential consequences of noncompliance?

    The company that imports products into the EU is responsible for ensuring regulatory compliance with RoHS requirements.

    For one, the policy of “no data no market” places the burden of gathering information and assessing risk of the substances in their products on the manufacturer and the importer. Noncompliant products cannot be distributed in the EU market.

    Each EU member state has its own enforcement penalties. But certain federal-level offenses can lead to eight years in prison and a fine of 55,000,000 EUR.

  • What is WEEE and how is it related to RoHS?

    The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) is another EU directive that requires all EEE manufacturers who sell in the EU to take on certain responsibilities in the disposal process for electronic waste. Both directives apply to many of the same products, but each has its own rules, as well as its own country-by-country differences in implementation.

  • Is stainless steel RoHS compliant?

    Yes. Although chromium is present in stainless steel, it’s not the hexavalent chromium restricted by RoHS. Some other restricted materials, such as lead and cadmium, may also be present in trace amounts, but testing has consistently confirmed that their concentrations in stainless steel are well below the RoHS threshold.