VI continue to get questions on a near-daily basis asking whether one specific EU RoHS exemption or another has been renewed or will be expiring on July 21, 2016. Today it was 7(c)-1.
One exemption that will expire on July 21, 2016 that some electronics manufacturers need to be aware of is 7(b):
Lead in solders for servers, storage and storage array systems, network infrastructure equipment for switching, signaling, transmission, and network management for telecommunications
This will expire on July 21, 2016 (as will some others). Any equipment placed on the market on July 22, 2016 or later in the European Union or any European Free Trade Association country (Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway or Switzerland) must not be dependent on this exemption in order to comply with the RoHS Directive substance restriction requirements. Note that “placed on the market” has a very specific meaning. If you do not know what that is, read section 2.3 of the recently revised Blue Guide.
But an application to renew exemption 7(c)-1 (“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”) was submitted before the deadline (and was not pulled, as was the application to renew 7(b)). Article 5, paragraph 5 of the RoHS Directive says:
The Commission shall decide on an application for renewal of an exemption no later than 6 months before the expiry date of the existing exemption unless specific circumstances justify other deadlines. The existing exemption shall remain valid until a decision on the renewal application is taken by the Commission.
Three important things to understand about this paragraph are:
- The Commission was, under normal circumstances, expected to make a decision by January 21, 2016 on whether 7(c)-1 or any of the other exemptions slated for exemption on July 21, 2016 that had renewal applications submitted on time. They did not.
- This is because of the rather prescient clause “unless specific circumstances justify other deadlines.” The “specific circumstance” is, in this case, the analysis bottleneck caused by the receipt of over 80 exemption renewal applications. The actual process is that an external consultant, Oeko Institut, manages the process to review the applications (which includes a public stakeholder comment period) and makes a recommendation to the Commission based on its technical analysis of the arguments presented for continuing the exemptions either as-is or modified.
- When a renewal application is submitted, regardless of its technical virtue, the exemption will remain valid until the Commission makes a decision on it.
Furthermore, paragraph 6 says:
In the event that the application for renewal of an exemption is rejected or that an exemption is revoked, the exemption shall expire at the earliest 12 months, and at the latest 18 months, after the date of the decision.
The Commission has acknowledged this:
Considering the very large amount of renewal applications received, the expected timeframe for the Commission to take a decision on a RoHS exemption application is currently 18-24 months from the application date.
This means that Exemption 7(c)-1 (as well as others in “Pack 9”, which Oeko Institut expected to be done with by early March, 2016 but remains open) can be expected to be addressed some time before mid-January 2017, given the fact that they were submitted in the first part of January 2015. Can this slip? Yes. Stay tuned to the Commission’s website, and register on the Oeko Institut’s website in order to stay up-to-date on their progress.
Mike Kirschner, founder, President and Managing Partner of DCA, is an environmental compliance and performance expert providing 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.” Mike was an original member of the California EPA Department of Toxic Substance Control's Green Ribbon Science Panel and in 2014 was appointed to the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute® Governing Board. 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. Mike can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.