The European Commission is carrying out a fitness check on EU rules around the use of certain harmful substances in electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) that are in place to protect human health and the environment and maximise the recovery of such substances after use.

Fitness checks are periodically carried out on legislation and assess how effective, efficient, relevant and consistent the rules are, and whether they usefully supplement national efforts.

Currently, Directive 2011/65/EU on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (the RoHS Directive) restricts the use of ten substances: lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE), bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP). All products with an electrical and electronic component, unless specifically excluded, have to comply with these restrictions.

As part of the evaluation, the EC is reaching out to stakeholders for their views, experience and examples that will illustrate opportunities, challenges and impacts resulting from the implementation of the RoHS Directive. Stakeholders identified are Consumers and civil society; public authorities; economic operators involved in any lifecycle phase of an electrical and electronic equipment; economic operators involved in any lifecycle phase of the relevant hazardous substances; electrical and electronic waste treatment operators; research and academic communities.

Comments should be submitted by 6 December 2019.

In a timely study from the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), the EU could save millions of tons of CO2 if the useful life of electrical and electronic equipment were extended to five years.

According to the EEB, around 10 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent can be saved across the EU every year by 2030 if the life of electrical and electronics equipment such as smartphones, tablets, washing machines or vacuum cleaners is to increase to five years. Even a one-year extension would already mean a reduction of four million tonnes of greenhouse gases.

On average, a smartphone is used for three years before it ends up as WEEE. Notebooks last for about six years, while washing machines are used eleven years and vacuum cleaners six and a half years. The authors of the study advocate extending the useful life of such devices by significantly improving repairability.

Last reviewed 25 September 2019