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MEPs signal support for open RoHS law scope

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The European Parliament's environment committee looks set to back an expanded scope for EU rules on the restriction of hazardous substances in electrical equipment, following its first debate on proposals to revise the RoHS directive on Wednesday.

Most EU governments have already said they want the RoHS law to cover all electrical goods, with specific exemptions for certain products. With most MEPs in Wednesday's debate taking a similar line, the European Commission's proposal to retain the existing closed scope for RoHS looks likely to be rejected.

The parliament's rapporteur for the proposals, UK MEP Jill Evans of the Green/EFA group, said there should be a transition period for products not previously covered by RoHS that would fall under its expanded scope.

Ms Evans said she would propose additional substance restrictions as part of the revision. These include four substances which the commission said should merely be reviewed for a possible future ban: hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD) and the phthalates DEHP, BBP and DBP.

Ms Evans said she would also propose restrictions on chlorinated and brominated flame retardants such as TBBPA, as well as polyvinyl chloride (PVC). All new substance restrictions should be subject to a three-and-a-half year transition period, during which time industry could apply for specific exemptions, she added.

Bromine industry group EBFRIP responded by arguing that the commission's decision not to propose restrictions on TBBPA was due to a lack of scientific evidence for a ban. UK conservative MEP Julie Girling urged Ms Evans to provide scientific evidence to back up her proposals for additional substance restrictions.

In a further shift away from the commission, Ms Evans argued that future decisions on new restrictions should be decided by MEPs and governments through co-decision, not the EU's comitology procedure.

Klaus Koegler from the commission's environment department said MEPs and the EU executive should "meet halfway" and define the criteria for comitology decisions more clearly in the RoHS directive. EU governments have already begun drafting their own criteria for new restrictions.

The environment committee is due to vote on the proposals in April, ahead of a plenary vote by the full parliament in May.

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