Fern Abrams columns | November 25, 2005

China Publishes RoHS-Like Laws

China's Ministry of Information Industry (MII) recently signed the "Management Methods for Controlling Pollution by Electronic Information Products," which is often referred to as China RoHS because of its similarity to the European Union (EU) Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive.
Implementation of China RoHS will involve the development of detailed regulation. MII has created a Standards Working Group and three subgroups to provide input in critical technical areas: labeling, lead free concentrations and testing and lead free solutions.

China RoHS will apply to products manufactured in and imported into China, but under current drafts it would not apply to products destined for export. Key requirements of China RoHS are expected to include substance restrictions, pre-market compulsory certification, and labeling and marking requirements. At least initially, China RoHS is expected to restrict the same substances currently restricted under the EU RoHS Directive. Less clear is whether any of the technology exemptions allowed in the EU RoHS will eventually be adopted by the Chinese regime. Pre-market certification is expected to be implemented by China's Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, likely through combination with the already existing China Compulsory Certification mark system.

Marking requirements would include indication of a "safe-use" period, place-of-origin marking, material content, toxic-substance content and recyclability marking, and marking indicating the material content of the packaging. It is expected that some of the marking requirements may be satisfied through inclusion in product manuals and other documentation. The safe-use period mark, which is unique to China RoHS, is defined as the time period in which hazardous substances contained in electronics products are guaranteed not to "leak out or mutate," thus causing pollution or harm to human health. It is expected that the safe-use "expiration date" will provide a guide as to the appropriate time to relegate electronics products to the take back/recycling regime being developed under separate regulations.

While China RoHS proposes to cover all "electronic information products," including components and parts, substance restrictions and pre-market certification requirements would apply only to products specifically listed in a catalogue to be published by MII. Catalogues would likely be issued in batches, phasing in the regulation for different types of products. Industry is encouraging MII to focus its initial regulations on consumer electronics. Because drafting of the first batch of the catalog has just commenced, MII has not released any "lists" of target products, but, MII has indicated privately that commonly-used, large-volume consumer products are likely to be included in the first batch of the catalog.

The proposed date of adoption is December 31, 2005 with an entry into force three to six months later. This effective date will be the "in force" date for all provisions except for the substance restrictions and pre-market certification, which will be effective on dates specified on the first batch of the catalog.

Many details about the specifics of the regulation remain undefined at this point and industry continues to work with the Standards Working Group. It advocates that China evaluate technological feasibility and reliability of options, as well as harmonize their regulations with international industry practices.

By Fern Abrams, Director, Environmental Policy, IPC


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