By Paul Davies, Andrew Westgate and Alice Gunn

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has recently announced a revised version of the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS 1), which will come into effect on July 1, 2016.

The revised legislation (RoHS 2) has significant implications for domestic and international companies manufacturing electrical and electronic products in China (including component parts), or those importing such products into China.

Leveraging Europe’s Regime

RoHS 2 is heavily influenced by the European hazardous substances regime and is a further example of how China continues to emulate the European model as a basis for developing robust regulatory frameworks.

Whilst similar, there are some important differences between the compliance regimes, including:

  • Exemptions. The legislation is aligned with the EU RoHS directive and the scope has been broadened from RoHS 1 to cover “electrical and electronic products”. Power generation, transmission and distribution equipment, however, are excluded from this definition. Yet the EU legislation provides for more exemptions (for example, large scale industrial tools) than the revised Chinese legislation. Without such exemptions, it may prove burdensome for companies in certain sectors to comply with RoHS 2 by the July deadline.
  • Limits. RoHS 2 applies hazardous substance content limits only to those electrical and electronic products subject to compliance management as listed in a “catalogue”. This catalogue will be drafted in batches, but there is no indication in the legislation as to the release schedules. The true scope of the legislation, and its similarity with Europe’s framework, will depend on the inclusiveness of the upcoming catalogue.
  • Restrictions. RoHS 2 restricts the same six hazardous substances as the EU RoHS directive: cadmium, mercury, lead and hexavalent chromium and their compounds, PBB and PBDE. The EU legislation, however, also contains restrictions for phthalates, which is absent from China’s restrictions.
  • Packaging. RoHS 2 introduces packaging material standard conformity requirements. However, these requirements are not the same as those seen in Europe: not only must products containing certain hazardous substances be labelled as such, but the packaging must also provide an indication of the length of the “environmental protection use period” (the duration for which a product can be safely used).

For further guidance on the revised legislation, its development since 2011 or a discussion relating to EU RoHS similarities, MIIT has issued a guidance document (available in Chinese only).

This post was prepared with the assistance of Glen Jeffries in the London office of Latham & Watkins.

Read more on China’s environmental legislation:

China’s NDRC Issues New Carbon Trading Guidance

China Progresses with Increased Environmental Accountability for Industry and Government Authorities

What Multinationals Need to Know About China’s Amended Environmental Protection Law

China Gives Green Light for Green Bonds