When people talk about “RoHS” they tend to mean the European Union’s “Restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment” Directive, 2011/65/EU. The fact is that there are an increasing number of RoHS-like regulations in different markets around the world. Each one has a different regulatory environment and agenda that translates into challenges for manufacturers of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE).
There is not one RoHS-like regulation outside of the European Union (EU) or the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries that is precisely harmonized with EU RoHS requirements. All RoHS-like regulations vary in terms of scope, markings, declarations, substances covered, disclosure vs. restriction, timeline and just about any other aspect of EU RoHS that one can think of. Yet we refer to them all as RoHS!
For instance, China RoHS has a different scope and, so far, does not restrict substances. However, it requires disclosure of the presence of the original six RoHS substances. India RoHS restricts the original six substances (no word on phthalate restrictions, yet), but has a much narrower scope, and requires submission of documentary evidence of compliance to the government as a condition of sale while the EU only requires its collection and management. Vietnam RoHS restricts the same original six substances, and actually has the same scope as the original EU RoHS Directive 2002/95/EC, but requires disclosure of the compliance status of products sold in Vietnam on the manufacturer’s website, in product documentation, or elsewhere, which EU RoHS does not require.
And so it goes for every other RoHS regulation out there. You might wonder why these countries do not harmonize their implementations of RoHS-like regulations. A couple key reasons are:
- No appropriate standard exists that defines what “appropriate” environmental/human health performance actually is for an electrical/electronic product. Because we can define “appropriate” performance for areas like safety or electromagnetic interference, standards (primarily defined by the International Electrotechnical Commission, or IEC) exist so that governments can, and do, require compliance. These have enabled a much greater degree of consistency of market requirements for those areas, but even after 30 years of trying, they still are not perfectly harmonized in all markets.
Similarly, easily measurable areas result in more commonality and harmonization between market implementations of similar regulations. For example, energy efficiency requirements for External Power Supplies (EPSs) are increasingly harmonized between the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other markets.
- Sovereign nations rarely want to appear to be followers. Regulators want their citizens to think of them as actually having their unique situations and requirements in mind. In some cases these actually may exist – certain countries, for instance, have more significant waste management issues (e.g., Japan, Taiwan) than others.
In other cases, the most appropriate way to integrate a RoHS-like requirement into an existing regulatory structure may require inconsistencies with the EU’s approach. The EU, of course, does have a singular and unique regulatory structure. Manufacturers, technically, are not following the RoHS Directive’s requirements since Directives are written for the Member States to transpose into their own legal framework. Technically, manufacturers must meet 28 different RoHS regulations in the 28 EU Member States plus four in the EFTA countries; fortunately, key requirements are intentionally harmonized. Other requirements, such as penalties, are not. In most cases, however, little rationale appears to explain the differences between implementations of similar regulatory requirements in the substance and e-waste areas.
Singapore and Ukraine
A couple of recent RoHS-like regulations include Singapore and Ukraine. Both implementations are wildly different. Singapore’s regulation, S 263/2016, came into force on June 1, 2017. This regulation updates the Second Schedule, Control of Hazardous Substances, in Singapore’s Environmental Protection and Management Act. While the six hazardous substances mirror those of the original EU RoHS Directive, the scope is a narrowly defined subset. Only the following products that are “designed for household use” are included today:
- Air conditioners
- Flat panel display televisions over 11 inches in width
- Mobile phones
- Portable computers
- Washing machines
The regulation includes relevant exemptions consistent with current EU RoHS language by substance in the listing of Hazardous Substances in Part 1 of the Second Schedule. However, because of the regulation’s structure, they are not numbered or mapped to EU RoHS exemptions (the EU RoHS exemption numbering will change in some cases as implementation of the approved exemption renewal applications move forward). Therefore, manufacturers must verify that the exemptions for their products under EU RoHS are allowed by Singapore RoHS.
On March 10, 2017, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine issued Decree No. 139, which mirrors the Recast EU RoHS Directive. In fact, it explicitly references 2011/65/EU in the very first section of the regulation. While the scope is consistent with EU RoHS, the in-force dates vary between January 1, 2018 and July 22, 2021 for equipment in categories 8, 9 and 11. Ukraine has had an implementation of RoHS since 2008, which followed the original EU RoHS Directive, so this should come as no surprise.
In fact, Ukraine’s implementation of RoHS 2 appears to very closely mirror the EU New Legislative Framework, including an implementation of Decision No 768/2008/EC that defines a “Module A” equivalent (it requires a different mark, however). This, of course, is no accident. Ukraine is interested in becoming an EU Member State; therefore, it has been trying to bring its regulatory structure in line with that of the EU. The EU has been working with Ukraine on bringing its governance up to EU standards for many years. This regulation is evidence of both parties’ continued interest in the future of Ukraine.
The Singapore and Ukraine regulations are both considered RoHS, yet they are very different. Different regulatory environments and different agendas add up to still more challenges for manufacturers of EEE as they try to maintain compliance in increasingly fragmented and dynamic markets.
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