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Efforts to tackle the disposal of huge amounts of toxic electronic waste are being made by legislative measures. The Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive 2002/95/EC - known as RoHS 1 - was adopted by the European Union in 2003 and took effect on 1st July 2006.

Manufacturers of electrical and electronic equipment are responsible for ensuring specific hazardous substances don't exceed the levels set out in the directive. It is closely linked to the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive 2002/96/EC, responsible for setting targets for the collection, recycling and recovery of electrical goods.

The legislative initiative is responsible for solving the problem of the massive amount of toxic waste being dumped in landfills. Initially, it restricted the use of six substances: lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated diphenyl ether and polybrominated biphenyls. A further four substances - butyl benzyl phthalate, bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, dibutyl phthalate and diisobutyl phthalate - were added to the list by Directive (EU) 2015/863 published on 31st March 2015.

The restrictions apply to each homogeneous material in the product - this refers to any single substance that could be separated, such as the tinning on a component lead or the sheath on a cable. Everything that is classed as a homogeneous material must meet the legal limits.

The legislation applies to a large range of products, such as large and small household appliances, lighting equipment, IT and telecommunications equipment, electrical and electronic tools, consumer products, leisure and sports equipment, toys, medical devices, automatic dispensers, monitoring and control instruments and semiconductor devices.

It doesn't apply to fixed industrial plants or tools. The company that puts the product on the market is responsible for compliance with the directive. The legislation applies to products in the EU, whether they are imported or manufactured within the EU.

In the past, the restricted substances were used in a wide range of consumer electronics products. In particular, lead has been used in various components such as PVC cables, power cords and USB cables, solders, lamps and bulbs, printed circuit board finishes, integrated circuits or microchips, leads, CRT television screens and camera lenses, paints, pigments and batteries.

The RoHS legislation plays an important part in reducing hazardous materials in electronics, as the global problem of consumer waste grows due to technology advancing at an increasing rate. Once new technology is launched, consumers are quick to discard products viewed as obsolete and they end up in landfill sites.

An example of vast mountains of obsolete products being discarded occurred in 2005, when mobile phones became more technologically advanced. It was estimated that in the USA alone, 98 million mobile phones were thrown away that year. The total electronic waste including television sets, computer monitors and VCRs, had a combined weight of around 1.9 million tons.

Further restrictions on additional substances are being considered for inclusion over the next few years, including brominated flame retardants, phthalates and chlorinated flame retardants.

As an environmentally-conscious company, all Coruba's products are RoHS-compliant. We care about the environment and ensure all our products comply with current legislation on hazardous substances - consumers can buy from us with confidence!

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