RoHS - FAQ
What is RoHS?
The European Union (EU) Directive on the Restriction of certain Hazardous Substances. This bans the use of certain substances in electrical and electronic equipment products after July 2006.
What is the difference between lead-free and RoHS compliant?
While lead (Pb) is the most widely used toxic substance in electrical and electronic equipment (EEE), the term "lead-free" is often wrongly adopted to refer to all of the substances specified in the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive. However, RoHS restricts a total of six substances - lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, PBB and PBDE. To be truly compliant with this legislation, the presence of each of these substances must be reduced below their proposed maximum concentration values (MCV).
Does the Directive only refer to lead?
Lead is just one of several banned substances in the RoHS Directive. While the industry has adopted the terminology of "lead free", removing lead alone will not achieve RoHS compliance.
What are the substances?
Cadmium (Cd), mercury (Hg), hexavalent chromium (Cr (VI)), polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) as well as lead (Pb).
What is WEEE?
Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment. Deals with the recovery, sorting and treatment of non-compliant products. Legislation is expected to be introduced by August 2004 with compliance a year later.
Why do we need this Directive?
In Europe, over 90% of electrical and electronic equipment goes into landfill sites - around 6 million tonnes of waste every year. Emissions to the air that result are a risk to both health and the environment.
Is the legislation global?
While the implementation deadlines form part of EU legislation, the need to comply will evolve globally. Japanese manufacturers have been reducing lead levels for 3 or 4 years and, in the USA, California has already passed legislation to fall approximately in line with the EU timescales. It is unlikely that electronics manufacturers will make "lead free" components for Europe and lead-based components for the rest of the world.
What are we doing to help you?
We have been gathering information for several months. Through our multi-channel approach we aim to be your partner and leading source of knowledge and information. For example, we will provide information from manufacturers, the impact on soldering techniques, a glossary of acronyms, in-depth analysis of the Directive itself. as well as keeping you totally up to date with the latest developments.
What are the benefits of the RoHS Directive?
The extraction of these raw materials and their eventual disposal, can cause damage to both the environment in terms of pollution, as well as to human health from occupational exposure and exposure following disposal. The removal of these materials from production will reduce the health risks of exposure, particularly for children, the elderly and pregnant women.
Who is affected?
- Manufactures and sells electrical and electronic equipment within the specified categories.
- Sells equipment produced by other suppliers under their own brand.
- Imports (or exports) affected equipment into European.
||Solders, terminations and PCB coatings, glasses, electronic ceramics in both active and passive devices.
||Electroplating, NiCd batteries, plastics, arcing contacts, sensors.
||Batteries, fluorescent lamps, switches, sensors, relays.
| Hexavalent Chromium
||Coatings on metals, primers for coated metals, hard chrome, metallising plastics.
|PBB and PBDE
||Flame retardants in a variety of plastics.
|Lead in Solders
||All different, most have higher melting point. Sn 3.5 Ag 0.7Cu most popular.
|Mercury Wetted Relays
||Gold Plated Contacts
||Impossible to achieve zero bounce without mercury, life much shorter
|Hexavalent Chromium Passivation
||For exposed metals, alternatives give inferior performance in many cases
|PBDE in Plastics
||Other Flame Retardants
||All perform differently. May require more to achieve same performance and could affect physical properties.
|Silver/Cadmium Oxide Contacts
||Silver/Tin Oxide Contacts
||Performance not identical, may affect useful life under certain conditions.
When obsolete materials are not recycled, raw materials have to be processed to make new products. This represents a significant loss of resources as the energy, transport and environmental damage caused by these processes is significant.
In 1998 it was estimated that of the 6 million tonnes of electrical equipment waste arising in Europe the potential loss of resource was:
- 2.4 million tonnes of ferrous metal
- 1.2 million tonnes of plastic
- 652,000 tonnes of copper
- 336,000 tonnes of aluminium
- 336,000 tonnes of glass
This was in addition to the loss of heavy metals, lead, mercury, flame-retardants and more. The production of these raw materials and the goods made from them entails environmental damage through mining, transport and energy use. For example, recycling 1kg of aluminium saves 8kg of bauxite, 4kg of chemical products and 14 kilowatts of electricity. The nature of many of these materials is such that they can be recycled with relative ease, preventing the need and wastage associated with producing new raw materials.
What's happening globally in terms of recycling?
13 countries already have laws in place for electronic take-back and it is estimated that within 5 years as many as 28 countries will have such legislation. In addition, the EU is currently expanding the directive on rechargeable batteries to cover a wider range. Currently 20 countries have a mandate for take-back on such batteries. Nine collection schemes are in force in Europe for recycling electronic waste, for example Holland, Sweden, Portugal, Denmark, and Belgium. An alliance has been formed between Sony, Electrolux, Braun, and Hewlett-Packard to implement their own pan-European collection scheme.
The US proposed 52 electronic waste bills in 26 states during 2003 as well as 65 mercury-related restriction bills, 10 of which affect electronics. At present 38 states have e-waste programs of different kinds. California, Massachusetts, Maine and Minnesota have recently banned CRT (Cathode Ray Tubes) from landfill sites.