Nanoco Group PLC

The Inconclusive Öko Institute Advisory: What You Need to Know

Published on 13/6/2016

In recent days, Nanoco has clearly stated our position on the inconclusive advisory report from the Öko Institute, which recommends the extension of an exemption as part of the Restriction of certain Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive that would allow the use of cadmium- containing quantum dots in Europe in TVs and displays.

In this post, we hope to further explain our questioning of the report and its potential negative impact on the future of the display markets, not to mention the health of consumers and our environment.

As Nanoco’s CEO, Michael Edelman, stated, “Cadmium is an obsolete and hazardous technology that’s never taken off in the mainstream market. In fact, sales of TVs using cadmium-free quantum dots already exceed those using cadmium by 20 to one. So why extend the use of this highly regulated and toxic chemical when there are safe alternatives available today that deliver market leading levels of color performance and energy efficiency?”

Cadmium-free display technology is already leading the market and will continue to scale rapidly. Leaders in the market have spoken and aligned their product strategies on cadmium-free as the industry’s future. The global display leader Samsung has already made the responsible choice and only use cadmium-free quantum dots in their new, highly acclaimed SUHD televisions. LG is focused on OLED technology. Apple has also turned its back on using cadmium in its iMac displays. We believe other leading manufacturers will continue to do the same.

Given the availability of innovative cadmium-free quantum dot technology on the market, abandoning the use of an RoHS restricted substance is just plain common sense. It is also the whole purpose of the RoHS regulation: to encourage innovation in safer and more sustainable alternatives to highly toxic materials such as cadmium.

The RoHS Directive recognizes cadmium as the most hazardous toxic heavy metal, giving it a maximum allowed level 10 times lower than mercury and lead. With high-quality, efficient products ready for the market, there’s no reason and no excuse to continue to allow the production of cadmium-based technology.

Under RoHS, the use of cadmium is supposed to stop when cadmium-free alternatives are available which can effectively meet the requirements for the products that use it. In the case of displays, the primary function of QDs is to meet the new industry standard for high colour. That standard is the UltraHD Premium standard, which requires displays to show >90% of the DCI standard colour range. (Both these standards are backed by the world’s leading media and display companies). Cadmium-free QD displays widely on sale today exceed this standard. In addition, these same displays achieve energy efficiency ratings of A+ according to EU standards, with lower energy use than comparable cadmium QD displays or conventional TVs or OLED.

So, if cadmium-free TVs are:

  1. Meeting the latest industry standard for high colour performance
  2. Achieving A+ energy efficiency to exceed EU standards
  3. Widely available to consumers to leading retailers in every EU country
  4. Outselling cadmium QD TVs by a factor of 20 to 1

How can it be concluded that they are not an effective alternative to cadmium?

By the way, for those who are sceptical that we may not be objective about this, major independent environmental groups have expressed their concerns as well, including Greenpeace, EEB and ChemSec.

Last year the European Parliament rejected cadmium for displays because the justification that alternatives were not available was “manifestly incorrect”. Since then, cadmium free TV performance has further improved and sales have rapidly expanded. How could a decision to extend the use of cadmium be correct now when it wasn’t then?

Finally, it’s important to remember, the Öko Institute’s report is not definitive and leaves the decision to the EU institutions about whether an extension should be granted. So, we look to the EU Commission, Member States, and European Parliament to exercise their responsibility to uphold the RoHS Directive and eliminate a toxic and dangerous substance from the EU environment and the homes of EU citizens.

Author: Andrew Gooda – Supply Chain & Compliance Director