No doubt, most people in the electronics industry support the long-term benefits of adhering to Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directives. The long-term environmental benefits are well proven. I find it strange, then, that a recent EU Parliamentary decision excluded renewable energy technology like solar power from the RoHS Directives, particularly since some use very nasty chemicals
This decision ultimately reveals a conflict—the need to encourage and hasten the introduction of renewable energy technologies for the sake of the environment, yet not hinder such objectives by making the renewable technology more difficult or costly to manufacture.
The problem environmentally is that many renewable energy technologies use harmful substances like cadmium. Obviously, allowing the use of such chemicals contradicts the environmental benefits of renewable energy systems. It raises a very important and difficult question: Are some renewable technologies really green, or do they actually harm the environment?
Right now, my view is that this question simply can’t yet be answered. Not until there’s either sufficient lobbying by environmentalists, or a technology solution is found that replaces hazardous chemical products with economically and technically viable alternatives.
Meanwhile, it’s fair to say that the European Parliament continues to look at ways in which pragmatic RoHS Directives can be further implemented in the electronics industry. However, they don’t seize all opportunities.
Recently, Europe’s Parliamentary members failed to introduce new restrictions on brominated flame retardants and the use of polyvinyl chloride. Both of these substances are known to become very hazardous when burnt. They release dioxins that are proven to cause cancers and longer-term congenital defects in humans. Fortunately, certain companies in the electronics industry have by their own volition decided not to use dioxin-related chemicals, and they’re able to manufacture operationally capable and commercially viable products.
So, how are these companies recognised by the legislators, and exactly how often are they consulted? Those answers are unknown. One thing is a certainty, though. Renewable energy technology is perceived by the populace to be the right way forward environmentally. However, the long-term moral high ground can only be secured if the manufacturing chemicals are known to be environmentally sympathetic and safe.