There is lots of talk about going “chrome free” in our industry, although we at Powdertech Surface Science in Bicester have been using completely chrome free coating processes for over 16 years now, we thought we would take a brief look at what the EU has done to reduce the use of chromium in general.
Now, we have made a snazzy timeline to highlight some key dates but let’s look at each date with a little more detail:
September 2000 – Directive 2000/53/EC End of Life of Vehicle
The European Commission estimated that end-of-life vehicles (ELV) generate between 7 and 8 million tonnes of waste in the European Union per year. This directive was created to set clear targets for the reuse, recycling, and recovery of the ELVs and their components in order to make recycling said vehicles easier. It also aimed at making manufacturers create vehicles using more environmentally friendly materials excluding the use identified hazardous materials including lead, mercury, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium or chrome VI.
The ELV Directive was reviewed or subject to a “fitness check in 2014”
May 2001 – Powdertech Surface Science goes chrome-free
Due to local legislation and our move into the automotive sector we decided to install a chrome free pre-treatment line and remove our chrome processes altogether. This meant improving and simplifying our waste management but also reduced our chances of contamination. We opted for a new technology at the time; a titanium zirconium based chemistry.
The process has now been running for over 15 years applying passivisation for bonding and powder coating to all types of aluminium and magnesium. Since the inception of our chrome-free treatments we have been constantly making improvements as our knowledge expands. Now with the help of our technical consultant, Dr Nick Welton we are looking at further improvements in project OPTIMA
January 2003 – RoHS Directive 2002/95/EC
Often labelled as the “lead-free directive” but restricted the use of 10 substances in the manufacture of various types of electronics in the European Union. Among the 10 listed substances was hexavalent chrome:
- Lead (Pb)
- Mercury (Hg)
- Cadmium (Cd)
- Hexavalent chromium (Cr6+)
- Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB)
- Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE)
- Bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP)
- Butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP)
- Dibutyl phthalate (DBP)
- Diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP)
This set a maximum of 1000 ppm (100 ppm for Cd) for homogeneous materials within a product.
December 2006 – WEEE directive 2002/96/EC (UK law)
WEEE stand for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. This directive originally set out a target for the EU member states, for the recycling and recovery of all types of electronics products, of 4 kg per head of person per population by 2009. Although this directive became European law in 2003 it was only transposed into UK law in 2006. The original deadline of transposition to national law of 13 Aug 2003 was only met by Cyprus.
December 2010 – Chromium (VI) compounds added to the REACH SVHC list.
Adding a substance to the SVHC (substance of very high concern list) is the first step in the procedure for the restriction of use of a chemical. The reason for chromium trioxides inclusion is due to its carcinogenic and mutagenic effects.
July 2016 – 15 years chrome free!
Powdertech Surface Science reaches its 15th year of being completely chrome-free! It was also the date we celebrated 15 years of working with JLR.
21st September 2017 – Reach Annex XVII
Sunset date for use of chrome VI industry wide. This is the original date set by the European Commission to ban the use of chrome VI products and is still the official date of final use however, a consortium called CTAC (Chromium Trioxide Authorization Consortium) are seeking to applying for an extension beyond this date for 6 uses of chromium trioxide – particularly in safety critical applications. This would enable the use of chromium trioxide based processes by those supplied directly or indirectly by the 7 applicants at least until a decision by the European Commission is made.
In our opinion, any ban on the use of a hazardous substance must be a good thing. The switch to chromium-free systems for pre-treatment isn’t easy but our track record of success shows that it is achievable. Our pre-treatment systems for bonding and powder coating of alloys of magnesium and aluminium, offer industry leading performance. If you need any information on our chrome-free systems please, feel free to contact us.