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RoHS Law Implementation Deadline of 22 July 2019 Introduces Wider Ban of Harmful Chemicals

On 22 July 2019, an amendment to Directive 2011/65/EU on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS) is scheduled to enter into effect in all Member States of the European Union. Hong Kong’s electronics vendors selling to consumers located in the EU should be reminded of this major amendment, as it bans four additional substances from all electrical and electronic equipment placed on the EU market with only limited exceptions.

The EU’s Official Journal had published the amending law, namely, Commission Delegated Directive 2015/863, On 4 June 2015. The amendment, which will potentially affect a number of Hong Kong’s exporters of electronic goods to the EU market, bans four new substances from electrical and electronic equipment (EEE). Virtually all EEE is subject to the RoHS restrictions. Hong Kong traders will have had to comply with the EU Member States’ national laws implementing the RoHS Directive for well over a decade.

Essentially, until now, the RoHS Directive, as implemented in the Member States, has banned six hazardous substances in all EEE, unless certain express exemptions apply. The six substances banned (pursuant to the original 2002 RoHS Directive) are lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) and Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE).

Then in 2011, a new (recast) RoHS Directive was published, with an EU-wide implementation date of 2 January 2013. However, while the recast law set out several tough amendments to the original law, the list of banned substances continued to remain the same. Only since the adoption of the 2015 Directive mentioned above has this list been extended.

Directive 2015/863 states that Bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), Butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP), Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and Diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP) are Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) and were subject to a thorough assessment. It notes that DIBP is a substance that can be used as a substitute for DBP, and was also subject to previous assessments performed by the Commission.

The available evidence indicates that those four substances (all of which are phthalates), when used in EEE, can have a negative impact on recycling, and on human health and the environment during EEE waste management operations. It also indicates that substitutes that have less negative impacts are available for DEHP, BBP, DBP and DIBP in most EEE.

It will be recalled by Hong Kong’s toy sellers that the phthalates DEHP, BBP and DBP are already restricted through entry 51 of Annex XVII to the REACH Regulation, so that toys containing DEHP, BBP or DBP in a concentration greater than 0.1% by weight of the plasticised material, calculated for the three phthalates cumulatively, cannot be placed on the EU market. The 2015 Directive states that, in order to avoid unnecessary regulation, the restriction through entry 51 of Annex XVII of REACH shall, therefore, continue to be the only restriction applicable to DEHP, BBP and DBP in toys.

The Annex to the 2015 Directive sets out the extended list of banned substances, together with maximum permitted concentration values, tolerated by weight in homogenous materials (the last four below are the new entries on the list):

1. Lead (0.1%)

2. Mercury (0.1%)

3. Cadmium (0.01%)

4. Hexavalent chromium (0.1%)

5. Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) (0.1%)

6. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) (0.1%)

7. Bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) (0.1%)

8. Butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP) (0.1%)

9. Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) (0.1%)

10. Diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP) (0.1%)

The 2015 Directive provided for periods of transition (depending on the EEE), which may continue to assist some Hong Kong sellers to align production processes with the new requirements. These are set down below:

  • Member States had to adopt and publish, by 31 December 2016, their transposition of new Directive 2015/863. They must apply the new provisions from 22 July 2019.
  • However, the restriction of DEHP, BBP, DBP and DIBP will apply to medical devices, including in vitro medical devices, as well as monitoring and control instruments – including industrial monitoring and control instruments – from 22 July 2021.
  • The restriction of DEHP, BBP, DBP and DIBP will not apply to cables or spare parts for the repair, the reuse, the updating of functionalities or upgrading of capacity of EEE placed on the market before 22 July 2019, and of medical devices, including in vitro medical devices, and monitoring and control instruments, including industrial monitoring and control instruments, placed on the market before 22 July 2021.

Manufacturers who feel that the banned substances cannot be substituted in any particular applications should note that exemptions may also be applied for, wherever duly justified. Article 5 of the framework RoHS Directive (2011/65/EU) sets out the provision for exempted applications and the circumstances in which they can be applied for.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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