The RoHS Directive stands for “the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment.” This Directive bans the placing on the EU market of new electrical and electronic equipment containing more than agreed levels of lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants.

The RoHS Directive was a major change that caught many in the industry by surprise. Now, new regulations and issues like REACH, EuP, sustainability and halogen-free will affect the entire North American electronics supply chain.

RoHS - the law in brief

According to the RoHS site (www.Rohs.gov.uk), the regulations are summarized as follows:

1.      The Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2008 implemented the provisions of the European Parliament and Council Directive on the Restrictions of the use of certain Hazardous Substances in electrical and electronic equipment, as amended.

2.      The RoHS Regulations have banned the putting on the EU market of new Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE) containing more than the permitted levels of lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium and both polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants since 1 July 2006. There are a number of exempted applications for these substances.

3.      Since 1 July 2006, manufacturers have needed to ensure that their products - and the components and subassemblies of such products - comply with the requirements of the Regulations by the relevant date in order to be put on the Single Market. The Regulations have also had an impact on those who import EEE into the European Union on a professional basis, those who export to other Member States and those who rebrand other manufacturers’ EEE as their own.

4.      These Regulations do not affect the application of existing legal requirements for EEE, including those regarding safety, the protection of health, existing transport requirements or provisions on hazardous waste. In other words, existing legislation on EEE and hazardous substances must also be complied with.

Understanding the Regulations and Being RoHS Compliant

As with all regulations, understanding how it will (or won’t) affect your company and how to remain in compliance is of utmost interest. The RoHS website provides guidance notes to support the new regulations. The guidelines can be downloaded at http://www.rohs.gov.uk/content.aspx?id=12.

In addition to the guidelines, on July 16–17, IPC — Association Connecting Electronics Industries® will host a symposium on electronics and the environment, “It’s Not Easy Being Green: New Laws, New Materials and a New Way of Doing Business.” Top industry executives will cover compliance essentials of China RoHS and REACH — the European Union’s new chemicals regulation which is estimated to cost the U.S. chemical industry 230 to 450 million dollars. In addition, attendees will hear about aggressive OEM timetables for halogen-free implementation.

The two-day event will take place in Cambridge, Mass., and will feature presentations by the U.S. EPA and some of the leading corporations in the electronics supply chain including Apple, Intel, SGS, Sun Microsystems, Benchmark Electronics, TTM, Tyco Electronics and Allen & Overy LLP.

“We’ve all heard how challenging it can be to stay up-to-date on environmental regulations,” said Fern Abrams, IPC director of government relations and environmental policy. “At times, requests and requirements can seem overwhelming. The expert speakers we’ve lined up will shed light on the changes that lie ahead and help manufacturers prepare for OEM desires and regulatory compliance. Throughout the event, attendees will hear about environmental issues from the perspective of their peers.”

For more information on the symposium, visit www.ipc.org/NotEasyBeingGreen.