Does the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive Help Reduce Environmental Impacts? (Pages: 24-37)

Anders S.G. Andrae*

Huawei Technologies Sweden AB, Skalholtsgatan 9, 16494 Kista, Sweden

DOI: https://doi.org/10.30634/2414-2077.2020.06.03


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Abstract: Toxin-free materials may be a prerequisite for the circular economy. However, the integrated overall environmental impact induced by banning the use of certain harmful materials should be assessed beforehand. No comprehensive analysis of the environmental impact basis of RoHS exemptions has been published. The scope of the present investigation is the production of a unit of mass of material systems using upstream life cycle assessment (LCA) and Spearman rank correlation for four proxies of environmental impact (Cumulative Energy Demand, LIME2 eco-cost, EPS2015 resource depletion eco-cost and abundance in earth’s crust and in the Oceans). The present investigation points to issues in the upstream caused by revoking certain exemptions for cadmium, lead and mercury. Strikingly, more than a few “non-toxic” alternatives have several orders of magnitude higher potential environmental impact than its toxic counterparts. Nevertheless, as material changes might have large effects on the use and end-of-life stages in the EEE life cycle, full LCA of several applications are required for more comprehensive understanding.

Keywords: Alternatives, cumulative energy demand, environmental impact, eco-cost, exemptions, life cycle assessment, Spearman, resource scarcity, RoHS.