SEMI Fights the Worst Case Scenario from New EU RoHS Proposal


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SEMI Fights the Worst Case Scenario from New EU RoHS Proposal

By Sanjay Baliga, SEMI EHS

Nearly a decade ago, the European Union (EU) enacted legislation to restrict the use of six hazardous substances – lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ethers – in electrical and electronic equipment (EEE). Semiconductor and photovoltaic manufacturing equipment (SPME) were excluded from the directive by means of an exclusion for Large Scale Stationary Industrial Tools (LSIT).

The EU recently started a long process of revising the RoHS directive in a process called a Recast. The three primary EU governance authorities – the European Commission, the Council of Ministers, and the European Parliament – must agree on common legislative language for the revision to become legally binding.

In its Recast proposal of December 2008, the Commission proposed few revisions and kept the LSIT exclusion in place. On the other hand, the Parliament and Council have introduced major changes in their independently drafted Recast proposals. In its first draft Recast proposal, the Parliament eliminated any reference to the LSIT exclusion. In its first draft Recast proposal, the Council altered the language, such that their intention to maintain the LSIT exclusion was called into question.

Without the LSIT exclusion, the six substance restrictions would extend to SPME. Most SPME are large and complex EEE, composed of tens of thousands (10,000’s) of parts. Supply chains for SPME manufacturing are broadly distributed and multi-tiered, often including thousands (1,000’s) of suppliers around the globe. Re-engineering existing SPME product lines, gathering supplier materials declarations and designing future SPME products to exclude these substances would take decades to accomplish. In the meantime, SPME could not be marketed in the EU.

Worst Case: Monitoring and Controlling Instruments as Part of LSIT Not Excluded from Scope

In late 2009 and early 2010, the Parliament and Council have revised their recast proposals with some critical consequences for companies that make SPME. The latest proposals include an LSIT exclusion, but the exclusion makes an exception for "Monitoring and Control Instruments” (MACI). In other words, LSIT would be excluded, but MACI which is part of LSIT would not be excluded. This LSIT exclusion with a MACI exception represents the worst case situation. The Parliament and Council, on paper, have granted SPME industries an exclusion, but the MACI exception renders the exclusion worthless. An analogy: exclude the car from the directive, but bring the engine, the tires, and the steering wheel back into scope.

One of the European Commission’s stated goals in the RoHS recast was to explicitly bring MACI (so-called Category 9 equipment) into scope. The EC was focused on MACI as described and recommended in the 2006 ERA study of Category 8 and 9 equipment, which was described as stand-alone equipment placed on the market as a finished product, not components of another product (e.g. LSIT) that that provide control or monitoring functions. It is contrary to the EC’s goal to except these components from the LSIT scope exclusion.

If dedicated components of LSIT that provide control and monitoring functions are within the scope of RoHS, some EU companies may no longer have access to compliant LSIT while these components are re-designed, re-engineered, tested or inspected to demonstrate compliance. The delay could jeopardize thousands of jobs and impact Europe's economic growth without any environmental benefit.

Role of Spare Parts, Accessories, and Upgrade Parts of LSIT

The LSIT exclusion would also be significantly undermined if it does not apply to parts intended to last as long as the LSIT itself, including spare parts, accessories and upgrade parts. The costs and schedule disruption for bringing these collateral parts into RoHS compliance would undermine the purpose of the overall LSIT exclusion. The additional burdens may put European businesses that depend on such parts to create, maintain or extend the useful lifetime of their LSIT at significant competitive disadvantage without environmental benefits.

SPME Not a Significant Environmental Risk

Including LSIT and SPME under the scope of RoHS does nothing to further the goals of RoHS. LSIT and large-scale fixed installations are significantly different from consumer products with a short life span. This equipment is sold in very limited quantities, so minimal amounts of restricted substances would be eliminated form landfills. The equipment is also designed for a service life of 10 to 20+ years, and it is also resold in a robust secondary equipment market. At “end of life” SPME retains significant value because such equipment contains as much as 90 percent by weight of steel and aluminum, which are recyclable. These points seem to be persuasive to most of the current legislative actors in the Recast.

Including components of LSIT that provide control or monitoring functions also does nothing to further the goals of RoHS for the same reasons. Such components are anticipated to enter unmanaged waste streams and give rise to environmental exposures because they are also managed by professional end users. The same can be said for spare parts, accessories, and upgrade parts of LSIT.

SEMI Recommendations to the EU

SEMI has an active RoHS Working Group (WG) devoted to RoHS-related concerns. This WG has spent several hundred hours preparing tutorial documents and working with the Parliament, Council and Commission to advocate for exclusions for all LSIT (and so, SPME). The message from the WG is clear. The MACI exception undermines the LSIT exclusion in a way that will have a significant negative impact on the functionality and availability of SPME, without significantly benefiting the goals of RoHS. SEMI asks that:

  • The exception of monitoring and control instruments be removed from the LSIT exclusion
  • Monitoring and control instruments (MACI) be defined and include concepts of “stand alone” and “finished product”
  • A scope exclusion be explicitly extended to components which are intended to become a permanent part of LSIT and the definition of spare parts be adjusted to support this scope exclusion

About SEMI and the Semiconductor and Photovoltaic Manufacturing Supply Chains

SEMI represents the collective interests of its membership and advocates for the industry on many public policy issues — ranging from competitiveness, R&D public funding, export control and tax policy to environmental regulation issues like RoHS. Our members support us directly working with governments on behalf of the industry in concert with a variety of other international and professional trade organization. Our overall goal is to inform, educate and advocate responsible policies on a variety of industry issues. SEMI pledges to continue working towards responsible and effective RoHS regulations.

SEMI urges members and industry partners, especially those located in Europe, to assist in these advocacy efforts. If you would like to join the efforts of the SEMI RoHS Working Group, please contact Carlos Lee (Brussels office) at clee@semi.org or Sanjay Baliga (EHS) at sbaliga@semi.org. For more information, please visit www.semi.org or www.pvgroup.org.

Since 1970, SEMI is the industry association serving the manufacturing supply chains, initially for semiconductors (microelectronic and integrated circuits), then for flat panel displays (FPD), micro-electro mechanical systems (MEMS) and more recently for photovoltaic (PV/solar) and solid state/LED lighting. Globally, SEMI represents over 2,000 member companies with a production of over euro60 billion.

September 1, 2010