What are the differences between the POPs Regulation, REACH Regulation and RoHS Directive?


The RoHS Directive, POPs Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2019/1021) and REACH Regulation (Regulation (EC) 1907/2006) share main objectives, namely the protection of human health and the environment. All three pieces of legislation employ similar mechanisms, the restriction of the use of hazardous substances, to achieve these goals, however they differ considerably as outlined below.

The RoHS Directive specifically restricts the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) and so promotes its recycling. While the Directive’s compliance is evaluated at the homogenous material and individual component level, the Directive is enforced at product level. The scope of the Directive is limited to certain EEE and to a limited number of specified substances.

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are substances which are highly stable in the natural environment, accumulate in the bodies of animals and are toxic. The POPs Regulation restricts a greater range of substances than the RoHS Directive (which also controls some POPs). The Regulation is enforced at individual substances, mixture and article level where article is defined as an object, which during production is given a special shape, surface or design which determines its function to a greater degree than does its chemical composition. Also, the POPs Regulation requires waste containing specified levels of POPs to be treated so the POPs are destroyed and aims to limit releases of unintentionally produced POPs into the environment.


REACH stands for the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals. The REACH Regulation (Regulation (EC) 1907/2006), covers virtually all substances (hazardous and non-hazardous) manufactured, imported and used within the EU. The REACH Regulation does not regulate wastes. The mechanisms used under REACH include:

  • Registration: Companies intending to use certain chemicals must ensure those substances are registered with the European Chemicals Agency. This requires the organisations to provide information on the substance which include the basic properties of the chemical, the likely uses of the substance, the risks, e.g. to human health and/or the environment, associated with those uses and ways to reduce those risks;
  • Evaluation: Some substances suspected of posing serious threats are evaluated further following which Restrictions or Authorisation requirements may be proposed;
  • Restriction: This control limits the amount a substance in a mixture or article placed on the EU market (including articles incorporated into products);
  • Authorisation: Where a company wishes to continue using the substance which is subject to an authorisation requirement, they must seek and obtain authorisation for its use from the European Commission. If granted, authorisations may be time-limited to give the company a period to substitute the substance concerned with a less hazardous substance.


REACH also aims to support the functioning of the EU chemicals industry by promoting innovation towards the use of more sustainable chemicals and reduce animal testing. Additionally, REACH sets out how risks associated with the use of chemicals are assessed and the information to be provided to the users of these substances.

Find out more

European Chemicals Agency – Understanding POPs.

European Chemicals Agency – Understanding REACH.