Indium Blog

RoHS D Day +0


Well today is "The Day," RoHS starts, but the furor continues. I would like to review some points:

1. The EU and the world are choking on WEEE (Waste of Electrical and Electronic Equipment). The growth of WEEE in the EU is 3 times that of other waste and 90% is disposed of with no pre-treatment. With the advent of continuously new technology at lower costs this trend will continue and likely accelerate.
2. The WEEE directive is a recycling law aimed at attacking this crisis
3. RoHS is a directive whose first intent is to make recycling safer and easier by eliminating materials from products that make recycling more difficult (lead, mercury, cadmium, CrVI, and the flame retardants).

Notice that nothing in the above talks about protecting the environment from lead or the other materials. It all addresses the need to facilitate re-cycling. People continue to miss this point.

I have reviewed the EPA reports that are being used to support the claim that RoHS compliant assembly buts more burden on the environment. Let's say I agree with this argument. The people that support this position say, correctly I believe, that non RoHS compliant assembly does not put much burden on the environment e.g. the amount of lead introduced in to the environment by electronic assembly is <0.5% of total. So RoHS compliant assembly may be somewhat more environmentally burdensome, than non RoHS compliant assembly which is not very burdensome at all. But RoHS compliant assembly enables us to more easily and safely rid the world of millions of tons of E waste, likely a far more important concern.

Some of the estimated environmental burden of RoHS is increased silver use in solder. I think that this use may be overstated. So I don't completely by into the "increased environmental burden" of RoHS compliant assembly. My reason to question the issue? Since silver is a precious metal, people will want to reclaim it. My friends at Sea View Technologies, reclaim metal even from non RoHS compliant products. The allure of silver will increase this profitable recycle industry, likely reducing increased silver use.

On other RoHS items:

1. Note that Apple is pulling some products because of non RoHS compliance.

2. Even though I may disagree on some points with the folks at Operation Pushback, I think their website is great and very helpful. We all learn from open and friendly debate.

3. A small company (from Cypress I believe, I lost the link to this story, if any reader has it please post it) has announced that they are going out of business because they can't make the RoHS switch and they just found out about it a short time ago. Hello? I know this state of affairs is not uncommon, but is a company really connected to their industry if they have never heard of RoHS and they make electronic products? It would mean not reading SMT, Circuits Assembly, Global SMT and Packaging, etc or never attending an APEX or SMTAI meeting in the last 5 years. I try to be sympathetic, but it is about like a cardiologist who has never heard of Lipitor!


Dr. Ron