The WEEE Problem of Obsolete Semiconductors

Following toxic chemical concerns, the EU RoHS WEEE (Regulation of Hazardous Substances/Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) directive became European law in February 2003, with the deadline for full compliance being set at August 2004. The result was thousands of suddenly obsolete semiconductors which had to be replaced with lead-free alternatives. There were six banned chemicals in all, including mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium and polybrominated bi and diphenyls.

Luckily, a number of component manufacturers were able to supply lead-free products compatible with the obsolete semiconductors being discontinued – often even when the component was not available in lead-free form from the original manufacturer. To soften the blow, many suppliers kept the cost of the lead-free versions the same as the lead-soldered ones, which continued to be sold. Some component engineering companies, for example those producing medical equipment, are currently exempt from RoHS legislation.

There was some outcry over the cost of the RoHS WEEE directive from electronics manufacturers, who from August 13, 2005 were financially and physically responsible for WEEE compliance. Under the ruling known as extended producer responsibility, or EPR, manufacturers had to deal with the collection, recycling and recovery of electronics goods which had come to the end of their lives, in an ethical and responsible manner. Since “end of life” often meant the disposal of perfectly serviceable products that failed RoHS standards, it was a double expense, since these products had to be replaced.

If you are struggling to comply with all the RoHS, WEEE and REACH directives, we at Enventure Technologies have a number of solutions to help you keep on track – and keep expense to a minimum.

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