Gift House International has acted to highlight the implications of strict RoHS/CE regulatory standards across the giftware industry.
The purpose of the RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) directive is to limit certain substances commonly found in electronics and electronic equipment
By highlighting and restricting substances deemed harmful, the goal is that manufacturer and distributors’ products do not contain these substances over the maximum concentration values outlined.
This is done both for the benefit of the environment and those that may come into contact with the materials after the products are eventually discarded.
An industry standard since its introduction in 2006, the RoHS directive has reduced the amount of high-tech trash in the environment.
However, its full effects on the giftware industry may only now be being truly felt.
The process and costs
In recent years, gift and gadget distributors have occasionally fallen foul of this new regulation – more often than not due to an over-reliance on guarantees from suppliers or a lack of sufficient knowledge of the certificates and test reports required.
In order to avoid this and fulfil the outlined criteria, Gift House International has installed a process consistent with the directive’s requirements.
The following is an insight into that process; one now necessary across the board in our industry, regardless of company size.
Firstly, a sample is sent from China to be tested in the UK (£350 for RoHS, with further CE and battery tests).
When these tests are complete, the reports are sent across to China to ensure the mass production of the order complies with all of the tests.
Once the order has been finished, it is a further requirement to send an independent company (at significant cost) to inspect the goods.
This company will randomly select several samples from the production run which will be sent to the UK for additional testing (another £1,000), before the goods can be shipped en masse.
Unfortunately this process, and the time and costs involved, has imposed considerable strain on a number of giftware distributors, particularly small and start-up operations.
To summarise, the RoHS directive has added around an extra four weeks on the production time of every new product; in addition to approximately £2,000 before one unit can be offered for sale.
This high cost of compliance may not be felt by the household names, but to a smaller business such as our own it has considerable effect on the number of products we are able to offer.
With these additional costs taken into calculation, a vast number of exciting lines we had hoped to launch in recent times have been deemed no longer viable.
In all, the RoHS directive has limited the products many manufacturers are able to offer.
The effect is a smaller pool of choice for the retailer and, in turn, a downturn in trade – which can ultimately only restrict the choice of the consumer.
Costs aside, the timescale of this process is also killing off a number of products before they can even hit the market.
With the test period lasting roughly a month, it is easy to miss the boat on a product in this - particularly with an on-trend product that might have a limited shelf life.
Essentially, gift distributors are paying to miss the boat - leading to reduced risks on product investment, something much detrimental to a business driven by innovation.
Several voices within the industry have expressed frustration with the stringent RoHS rulings; particularly when drawing comparisons with the lead-laden materials used in shooting.
A number of high-profile studies, from the 1970s to recent times, have documented that shooting ranges are sources of significant levels of lead pollution in the environment – exactly the kind that the RoHS directive is seeking to eradicate.
The legacy of harm caused to significant numbers of waterbirds, for instance, from abandoned, fallen lead pellets is startling - particularly when considering these pellets take over 10,000 years to dissolve in temperate climates.
While there is currently a movement towards using non-toxic alternatives, a recent BASC (British Association of Shooting and Conservation) survey revealed almost half of those obliged to use non-lead ammunition had failed to comply.
Furthermore, 2009’s Stroud and Hunt essay ‘Gunshot Wounds: A Source of Lead in the Environment’ claimed that bullets containing toxic lead are “still widely used” – posing ongoing risk to wildlife and health implications for humans.
While we do not believe this justifies similar levels of excessive lead in gadget electronics, the Gift House International team recently had one product failed by RoHS due to a small quantity of components being covered with a few millimetres of lead solder.
It is instances like this that lead us to believe that the RoHS directive is excessive.
What we’re looking for
“We are looking for greater financial support for start-ups and small companies, who are so often the driving force in this kind of business”, a GHI spokesperson stated.
“The RoHS directive came in in July 2006, before the recession hit businesses hard in every field”.
“We feel that the minefield of regulation and particularly the costs involved is halting new products, and hurting new companies in our field – and this is hurting the marketplace.
“It can’t be doing the economy any favours, not to mention young inventors”.
“As it stands, the time and financial commitment of RoHS compliance, on top of the ongoing task of educating staff and suppliers, is making our everyday job a lot harder to do well”.
“We’re fully supportive of RoHS concept, and reasoning behind supplying compliant products. We just want it to be viable.”