What is RoHS and why does it matter to the aluminum industry?
Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS) is the regulatory framework adopted by the European Union (EU) in the early 2000s restricting the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment. The intent of the rule is to limit the amount of hazardous chemicals that may end up in landfills at the end of the product’s useful life.
Current RoHS regulation enacted in 2011 restricts lead (Pb) content of materials used in electronics equipment to 0.1% by weight. However, under a long-standing exemption – exemption 6b – that limit was set at 0.4% Pb by weight for aluminum alloys.
What is the current status of RoHS in Europe?
The current RoHS exemption expires in July 2016. If the exemption is not extended, electrical component manufacturers will be required to revert to Pb limits of 0.1% by weight in aluminum alloys. Products would need to be in compliance with the new Pb limits on the date the exemption expires or they would not be eligible for sale in the EU.
What is the aluminum industry doing to respond?
A petition to extend the Pb exemption for aluminum alloys under RoHS was jointly filed by the European Aluminium Association, the Aluminum Association and other interested parties in January 2015. The industry requested a five-year extension of the current Pb exemption. The European Aluminium Association is chairing the work group which developed the revised and expanded exemption petition (6b) that was submitted at the beginning of 2015.
What would the possible outcome be if the exemption for aluminum is not extended?
If the exemption were allowed to expire, it would impact access to market for electronics products using aluminum alloys containing lead as an alloying agent, particularly because supply chain acquisition for these products occurs well in advance of these products coming to market. A decision on maintaining or removing the exemption is expected by the EU in December 2015 and will come not later than January 2016.
What do I need to know as a manufacturer of aluminum bound for the European electronics market?
Aluminum producers are engaged with the EU to maintain exemptions for lead alloying agents at current levels. In the event that the exemption is not renewed, the industry will have between 12 and 18 months to alter chemical composition of aluminum alloys for electronics applications, keeping in mind that on the date of compliance, the aluminum alloys contained in products entering the market must contain no more than 0.1% Pb.