EU Beefs up Restrictions of RoHS

Europe's crackdown on hazardous materials in IT and electronic devices may not be sufficiently strict to alter business behaviour, a leading sustainability certification organisation has warned.

Last week, the EU beefed up its Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive, imposing more stringent requirements on IT and telecoms equipment, household appliances and consumer goods, while also extending the rules to cover medical devices and monitoring and control instruments.

But according to TCO Development, a Swedish certification body that tests ICT products, the new regulations do not go much further than many companies' current environmental standards.

The organisation's communication director, Birgitta Halvarsson, told BusinessGreen that RoHs still lagged behind TCO's own standards, which are currently met by approximately half the monitors on sale globally.

"There's a lot more RoHs could be doing. In a way, they're better [after the changes], but I don't think they really went as far as many organisations were hoping for," she said. "For example, the flame-retardant criteria we published in 1995 are still stronger than RoHs today."

Many large electronics companies are already phasing out hazardous substances, which Halversson said showed the value of voluntary certification.

"You say 'what can we do', but eco labels can really push industry so they make better products instead of waiting for legislation," she added.

TCO examines a variety of criteria ranging from energy efficiency to recyclability, taking in visual clarity and the conditions in which the products are manufactured.

The company also recently launched a new standard, TCO Edge, that has even tougher criteria that so far only three products have met: the world's first halogen-free monitor, produced by NEC, and a monitor and computer from Lenovo that are both made with recyclable plastic.

Halversson believes that with time, the standard will replicate the success of the Fair Trade label on consumer goods.

"Companies are increasingly bringing in strict environmental policies and green procurement policies," she said. "Like with coffee, more and more people want to buy green products for their office."

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