In this month’s article we once again focus on European Union RoHS and REACH.

RoHS Exemption Extension Applications, Pack 9

On June 27, the Öko-Institut e.V., Faunhofer-Institut IZM and Eunomia Research & Consulting Ltd., tasked by the European Commission with performing the technical assessment of EU RoHS-related exemption extension applications and making recommendations, released their long-awaited findings on “Pack 9”. Pack 9 covers 29 of the exemptions currently allowed by the EU RoHS Directive’s Annex III (note that Annex III exemptions that did not have extension applications submitted by the January 21, 2015 deadline, such as 7(b) for “Lead in solders for servers, storage and storage array systems, network infrastructure equipment for switching, signalling, transmission, and network management for telecommunications” expired on July 21, 2016).

The report, at over 1000 pages, is so large it was broken into three parts:

  • Lamp exemptions (pdf)
  • Solder and electrical contact exemptions (pdf)
  • Alloy and miscellaneous exemptions (pdf)

The report provides an extensive review of every exemption’s use and the industry’s (as well as other stakeholders’) assessments of pros and cons of potential alternatives (which on its own, particularly for those outside the industry such as students, self-identified “technogeeks”, customers, etc., provides a rare window into the deep level of technical details and tradeoffs engineers and scientists that design the technologies and processes that products are based on must consider, including significant manufacturing and reliability challenges), an estimate of how much of the restricted substance the exemption may allow to be placed on the market, and the consultants’ analysis and recommendations.

As an example, the exemption 7(c)-I “Electrical and electronic components containing lead in a glass or ceramic other than dielectric ceramic in capacitors, e.g. piezoelectronic devices, or in a glass or ceramic matrix compound” section alone runs 77 pages. The consultants propose to split this single exemption into three separate exemptions: one for lead in glass that expires in 3 years (July 2019) for categories 1-7 and 10, another for lead in ceramics that expires in 5 years (July 2021) for categories 1-7 and 10, and a third that maintains the same wording as the existing exemption but extends the expiration to July 2021 for category 8 and non-industrial category 9 equipment while extending it further to July 2023 for in vitro diagnostic medical devices in category 8 and to July 2024 for industrial category 9 equipment. Got it?

The group of industry associations that had produced the original applications for twelve Pack 9 Exemptions (4(f), 6(a)(b)(c), 7(a), 7(c)-I-II-IV, 8(b), 15, 34 and 37) wasted no time in analyzing the massive report, and generally were not pleased by what they found.

Key complaints include shorter applicability dates, and “rewording and/or splitting of exemptions”. The assessment is that, should the Commission follow the recommendations in the reports, the complexity and costs of compliance will increase without producing significant improvement in environmental performance. They are not wrong.

The future includes lobbying by industry, defense by Öko-Institut, and – eventually – decisions by the European Commission on how to handle each application. Eventually we will see this implemented as a draft Commission Directive to amend the RoHS Directive; it should be issued through the World Trade Organization Technical Barriers to Trade Committee which will enable another (cursory) round of comment. In the meantime, review the reports for the exemptions that concern you along with the industry associations’ analysis and recommendations.

RoHS Exemption Applications, Pack 8

On July 19, the same team of consultants released the report on their assessment of three RoHS exemption applications, colloquially known as “Pack 8”. While not nearly as exciting and impactful as Pack 9, the 74 page report is of some moderate interest.

The first application, 2015-1, requests an exemption for “Lead in thin film electronic sensor elements such as pyroelectric sensors or piezoelectric sensors”. The applicant Pyreos’ thin film pyroelectric materials consist of PZT like piezoelectric ceramics. Exemption 7(c)-I in RoHS Annex III allows the use of lead in such ceramics including piezoelectric ceramics, as well as in glass and glass-ceramic matrix compounds in electrical and electronic components. Pyreos was therefore asked why it requested a new exemption instead of asking for the renewal or specification of exemption 7(c)-I. Pyreos’ response seems to indicate that, because they use different technology than the competition they should have their own exemption. It was ultimately subsumed into the Pack 9 analysis.

The consultants, in the Pack 9 report, determined that, technically, the use of lead in the applicant’s sensors is fully covered by the current exemption 7(c)-I, and it remains to be seen in the total context of the future wording of this exemption whether it makes sense to add an explicit exemption to Annex III as Pyreos requested.

The second application, 2015-2, from FEI, requests an exemption for “Lead in High Voltage Cables and Cable Assemblies for a Rated Voltage Higher than 250kV DC, Containing up to 4% Lead by Weight” (for Industrial Monitoring and Control Instruments, Annex IV). This was rejected because a competitor to the applicant, JEOL, “states that they have developed a lead-free high-voltage cable (including the cable assembly) capable of high voltage up to 300 kV” and they “are already applied in its TEMs and that the 300 kV TEMs using this cable are already placed on the EU market.” Furthermore, the association “Europacable states that the high voltage cables > 250 kV are out of scope of RoHS 2 and that technically there would be no need to request an exemption.” Perhaps that’s the case for a cable used on its own or as distribution for power, but “the consultants assume that if as stated by the applicant, its equipment is in scope of the RoHS Directive, that all components would need to comply with the Directive substance restrictions, including any cables, regardless of their rated voltage.” There’s a lesson in understanding how to interpret the scope of RoHS here.

Finally, the third application, 2015-3, “Lead as Activator in the Fluorescent Powder (1% Lead by Weight or Less) of Discharge Lamps When Used as Phototherapy Lamps Containing Phosphors such as BSP (BaSi2O5:Pb)” (Annex IV), actually had enough merit to result in the consultants recommending an amendment to exemption 18(b) in Annex III should it be renewed or, if it is not, granting of a new exemption in Annex III.

EU REACH Articles Guidance Draft Status and Timeline

I erroneously said in my previous TTI MarketEYE article that there would be a public stakeholder consultation on the revised REACH Articles Guidance draft this summer. This is, in fact, not the case. The draft of the updated guidance, with the new examples that demonstrate how ECHA is interpreting the European Court of Justice’s ruling on the definition of “article”, was to be issued to the “Partners Expert Group”, or PEG – which is comprised of stakeholders – in July. A public version of the draft is also planned for release soon (if not by the time you read this), according to Rémi Lefèvre of ECHA, who described what’s to come during the Sustainable Manufacturing Forum at SEMICON West in San Francisco last month.

A PEG meeting is planned for October, and ECHA plans to publish the revised guidance in Q1 2017. The pilot enforcement project of article-related requirements by the Enforcement Forum is now expected to occur in the second half of 2017.

Once the draft is available and released, I suggest that you carefully go through it and consider reviewing my previous article, mentioned above. If you have questions please get in touch. If you have comments and concerns, work with your favorite industry association. ITICIPC and others are involved.

Contact

Visit DCA at www.DesignChainAssociates.com or email me with any questions or comments on this post.

Mike Kirschner


Mike Kirschner

Mike Kirschner is a product environmental compliance and performance expert who provides advice and expertise to manufacturers in a variety of industries. His primary areas of focus include EU RoHS, the impact of EU's REACH regulation on article manufacturers, California’s Safer Consumer Products regulation, and performance standards like IEEE-1680.x for electronics. Mike helps manufacturers define, implement and troubleshoot internal management systems that result in compliant products, and assesses and monitors environmental regulations around the world on their behalf.

He contributed two chapters to the Governance, Risk, and Compliance Handbook, published by Wiley in 2008, and is featured in the critically acclaimed book, Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power. In 2009 he was appointed to the California EPA Department of Toxic Substance Control's Green Ribbon Science Panel. Prior to joining ENVIRON, Mike founded product lifecycle and environmental consultancy Design Chain Associates, LLC (DCA), where he served as president and managing partner. Before founding DCA in 2001, Mike spent 20 years in engineering and engineering management roles within the electronics industry with manufacturers including Intel and Compaq. He holds a BS in electrical engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

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