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RoHS and LED lighting: A bright future

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Simon Greenwood, Sales Director, Trade and Specification at Signify UK & Ireland, discusses the opportunities RoHS2 offers the lighting sector. 

The ban of halogen lamps first implemented by the European Commission in 2007 and more recently the announcement of RoHS2 (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) announced by the European Union and UK government puts LEDs firmly into the spotlight. 

The new restrictions help bring LED lighting to the forefront as the best alternative to incandescent lighting as these lights are sustainable and energy efficient. The directive sets the guidance for future use of lighting products and offers a huge opportunity for the growth of LEDs.

What is RoHS2?

The rise in the production and use of electrical and electronic products, such as mobile phones, computers, and kitchen appliances, has resulted in an increasing volume of electrical and electronic waste. 

During the use, collection, treatment and disposal of such waste, products may release harmful (hazardous) substances such as lead, mercury and cadmium, which can cause major environmental and health problems. Now, RoHS is a set of restrictions imposed to preserve the environment, improve recycling possibilities and minimise the risk of substance exposure.

RoHS in Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations affect businesses that are involved with electrical and electronic equipment. This includes manufacturers, importers, exporters, businesses that re-brand goods, and of course distributors. The regulations limit the use of hazardous substances such as mercury, lead and cadmium in the manufacture of new electrical and electronic equipment placed on the market in the UK.

In Great Britain and in Northern Ireland, many types of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) are regulated to control the levels of certain hazardous substances and chemicals they contain, with the aim of protecting human and animal health. This extends to specific steps that must be taken where a product is known or suspected to be non-compliant.

All products in scope must:

  • Have supporting technical documentation (often referred to as a technical file) to demonstrate compliance,
  • Have a Declaration of Conformity
  • Be labelled with the required information,
  • Display the appropriate conformity marking for the GB and/or NI markets as appropriate

What does RoHS mean for the lighting industry?

Released in February 2022, the RoHS directive restricts the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment. For the lighting sector in particular, the legislation regulates the use of mercury in lighting products, impacting what products are permitted on the market for installation.

For general lighting purposes, a ban on compact fluorescent lamps (CFLni lamps) and on T5 and T8 fluorescent tubes comes into play from February 2024

One of the most important changes introduced by RoHS2 is that it has become a CE Marking Directive, enforced under the EU’s New Legislative Framework (NLF)/the UKCA mark in the UK. This means that in order to affix the CE Marking on the EEE, the manufacturer must meet the requirements of the RoHS Directive in addition to the requirements of other applicable CE Marking Directives (e.g. EMC or the Low Voltage Directive).

Relation between RoHS, EcoDesign & Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)

The Ecodesign directive replaced the Energy Using Products Directive in 2009. This includes products that do not use energy but impact on energy consumption, such as insulation materials and water-using devices, as well as energy-using products. It aims to reduce the environmental impact caused during the manufacture, use and disposal of a very wide range of products.

Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) is related to the design, use and recycling of electrical and electronics equipment or components. WEEE is a directive explaining how to use, operate and recycle electrical and electronic equipment or components. RoHS on the other hand, is related to limited use of hazardous products in electrical and electronics equipment or components. RoHS compliance should also follow WEEE compliance.

RoHS compliance dovetails into WEEE by reducing the amount of hazardous chemicals used in electronics manufacture.

Put another way, RoHS regulates the hazardous substances used in the manufacture of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE), while WEEE regulates the disposal of this same equipment.

With the lighting industry in general, both these regulations aim towards making the sector more environmentally sustainable.

An opportunity for the lighting sector

As a major environmental regulation of electronics, RoHS is a step in the right direction to ensure lighting products like fluorescent lamps that are hazardous to humankind and our environment are banned. The question on the sales of fluorescent lighting was never previously under the spotlight due to the lack of the right replacement or alternative.

However, over the years, LED lighting has emerged, with like-for-like replacements that are a cost-effective, mercury-free, sustainable alternative to fluorescents. While the EcoDesign regulation will have removed many conventional lighting products based on their poor energy performance, such as the ban of fluorescent T8s in August 2024, RoHS is poised now to address the products left behind on the basis of their toxicity.

With all these regulations now in place and the sector beginning to comply with these seriously, the sustainable and environmentally-friendly future of the sector is here to stay. It would also be equally true to say that the lighting sector is poised to play a significant role in the green recovery of the UK and ensuring we lead by example.

Simon Greenwood

Sales Director, Trade and Specification at Signify UK & Ireland

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