The big news in recent weeks was the release of the China RoHS FAQ on May 16. But that’s not all.
The China RoHS FAQ
Fourty-four pages long, the FAQ covers a fair amount of ground. Given how little forethought or learning from experience appears to have gone into the revised China RoHS regulation, there were many holes to fill. Unfortunately, holes remain.
The one big issue the FAQ clarifies is the scope. I do find it curious that a regulatory requirement as important as scope, can legally be covered by something as unofficial and seemingly as informal as a FAQ, but there we are. Published with six weeks to go until the regulation comes into force, the scope includes products that are not even in the scope of EU RoHS today, but the Chinese government expects them to be able to comply with their requirements.
The categories of products in scope are:
- Communication equipment, fixed or mobile
- Professional broadcast and TV equipment (!)
- Computer and office equipment
- Household appliances
- Electronic instruments for monitoring and control applications
- Industrial electrical and electronic equipment, including monitoring and control equipment
- Power tools
- Medical electronics and devices
- Lighting products, including electric light sources (lamps) and luminaires
- Sports and entertainment products
Products out of scope include:
- Electrical and electronic equipment for military use
- EEE for use in extreme environments
- EEE for export
- EEE products for research and development, prototype, exhibition purposes (but are not sold)
Several issues are still outstanding or have not been clearly addressed, including 1) whether manufacturers of non-consumer EEPs may continue to place their hazardous substance tables on their websites instead of including them with the product, 2) the lack of clarity around packaging labeling requirements that results from the FAQ simply stating that there are national standards without referencing them, and 3) the fact that there are already numerous mandatory standards covering batteries that – at a glance – appear to obviate the need for battery coverage by this regulation.
We will cover China RoHS as it continues to roll out.
EU REACH Articles FAQ
I got a look at draft examples of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) will be proposing for inclusion in the updated version 3 of the Guidance on requirements for substances in articles, which account for the revised definition of “article”per the European Court of Justice. My conclusion is that ECHA appears to be taking a very strict approach to interpretation, which would identify as an article any item – even those ultimately a part of a component – would be considered an article.
For instance, assuming this example of the production process for an aluminum electrolytic capacitor is accurate, at least the following items would be considered separate articles that would have to be considered separately for Article 33 disclosure or Article 7 notification requirements, based on the presences of candidate list Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs):
- Paddle tabs (terminals)
- Anode foil
- Cathode foil
- Paper spacer
- Rubber seal
Therefore, an aluminum electrolytic capacitor is actually seven articles, as viewed by REACH. If the electrolyte contains a candidate list SVHC, it would have to be declared if its weight as a percentage of the total weight of the electrolyte (a mixture), the anode foil, the cathode foil, the paddle tabs and the cathode foil (which are soaked in the electrolyte prior to assembly) exceeds 0.1%. This is different from the previous interpretation; in that case, an SVHC in the electrolyte would have had to exceed 0.1% weight by weight of the entire capacitor assembly. Now its weight only has to exceed 0.1% by weight of the article the mixture (or substance) is applied or added to.
Another example I had used in a seminar I gave earlier this year may be helpful as well. Adhesives and solders are used in the assembly of electronic components onto printed circuit boards. The weight of a SVHC in an adhesive or solder would have to exceed 0.1% of the weight of the article it is added to in order to be declarable. In the case of a PCB assembly the weight of the article would be the aggregate weight of the components and the bare PCB. So the weight of an SVHC in an adhesive or solder would often have to be quite significant to be declarable.
While not exactly at the homogeneous level, this implies a whole new level of complexity that electronics manufacturers and the component supply chain will have to deal with. In fact, it is even beyond the dreams of the Nordic Council, whose 2010 report, “REACH Trigger for Information on Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC)”, used an aluminum electrolytic capacitor in a computer as an example of what they believed an article to be; little did they imagine that it was actually a complex article consisting of seven “simple” articles. The public stakeholder comment period is expected to begin sometime this summer. Work closely with your favorite industry association or comment by yourself.
EU RoHS Update
While the industry awaits the report from the Oeko-Institut, and ultimately the decision from the Commission, on the applications for renewal of exemptions included in Pack 9, the Oeko-Institut has released its final report on Pack 10, which includes two Cd in quantum dot exemptions: one a renewal of exemption 39 and the other a new application.
This is, in fact, a re-evaluation of exemption requests previously submitted in 2012 and 2013, reported by Oeko in 2014, and which the Commission approved via a Delegated Act. The Parliament then objected to it, claiming the report needed to be updated, since “there have been important new developments with regard to the commercial availability of products based on cadmium-free quantum dot technology which require a new assessment.” The conclusion of the report is that “an exemption should be granted for three years.” This is a rather short extension. The rationale seems to be that, while there are applications where, in fact, Cd-free quantum dot technology is a viable alternative, those applications cannot yet be neatly carved out. The report seems to be asking the Cd quantum dot manufacturers to work more diligently on identifying specific applications where their technology has benefits over other light source alternatives in order to maintain the exemption or expand/contract its scope.