UK PUTS BACK E-WASTE LAW TO 2006
UK PUTS BACK E-WASTE LAW TO 2006
2005-04-06 at 11:13:00 am #8651UK puts back e-waste law to 2006The British government has delayed the new law which makes
producers of consumer electronics responsible for the recycling and disposal of
The European Union directive, Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment
(WEEE), was to become UK law in August.
But ministers have put back its implementation because of “major
difficulties” in meeting the deadline.
Electronics firm Hewlett Packard (HP) has welcomed the delay, saying similar
problems existed all over Europe.
The WEEE directive is an important piece of legislation because it puts legal
responsibility on electronics manufacturers to recycle products that are
returned to them at the end of their life.
Germany has already delayed its decision to incorporate the directive into
“On the face of it, WEEE looks quite simple,” Dr Kirstie McIntyre, HP’s WEEE
UK programme manager, told the BBC News website.
“When you look at the detail, it is complex. It requires interaction with
people we don’t usually interact with.”
The directive itself, which started life in 1992, has been separated into
different pieces of legislation because it is so complicated.
HP said the decision by the UK government to delay the implementation was the
“right move” because there were still a number of details that the government
needed to resolve with the industry to make it work.
Campaign group, Waste Watch, also broadly welcomed the move.
“The implementation of EU directives should be viewed as part of the journey
to sustainable development that needs to be created and spread by government,”
said Barbara Herridge, executive director of Waste Watch.
“If a delay in the implementation of the WEEE and [Restriction of Hazardous
Substances] directives helps us to achieve that more holistic and integrated
approach, then this is welcomed.”
She added that businesses and technology producers needed to take
responsibility for their actions, and to pay for any environmental damage that
A lot of communication and liaising needed to take place between local
authorities, councils and the technology industry, which has not really happened
before, said Dr McIntyre.
We are very pleased to see individual producer
responsibility back on the agenda – it slipped off last year after the third
Dr Kirstie McIntyre, Hewlett PackardShe said the government should to put in place mechanisms to help
In the open letter from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the
government said an advisory panel would be set up to “maintain strategic
oversight and review of the WEEE implementation in its early years”.
The taskforce will consist of various stakeholders from the government,
industry and local authorities.
It will mean that individual producer responsibility (IPR) will be a key
focus of the implementation.
“We are very pleased to see individual producer responsibility back on the
agenda – it slipped off last year after the third consultation,” said Dr
She added: “IPR is one of the core objectives of the directive and without
it, the full scope of its aims and environmental benefits cannot be realised.”
The DTI also said it would not make the cost of recycling equipment an extra
price add-on to consumer electronics, called a “visible fee”. Instead, the cost
would be part of the overall price of the products.
“We don’t think that visible fees are a good idea as they will look like an
‘eco tax’,” said Dr McIntyre. “Environmental benefits should not be associated
with what would be seen as a ‘bad thing’.”
She added that administering the fee could well be expensive, too. Retailers
would have to collect the fee and pass it back to producers or maker of the
There is some concern, however, that consumers will have to pay the extra eco
Technology analysts Gartner predicted in a recent research report that the
changes could add up to £33 ($60) onto the price of a computer in Europe.
There is a general recognition globally that responsible environmental action
on how to stem e-waste dumping and pollution needs to be taken.
Many companies already have programmes in place to deal with recycling and
other environmental concerns.
But some manufacturers may not, which means they will have to
implement proper schemes.
The WEEE’s aims are two-fold. The first is to prevent waste electronics
ending up in landfill sites.
The second is to stop the electronics industry creating so much e-waste in
the first instance.
The consumer electronics industry continues to grow, with gadgets like
digital music players, mobiles and computers becoming increasingly popular.
Developments are also being made to design better technologies which are more
energy efficient and which do not contain harmful substances.
Elements like chromium, lead, and cadmium – common in consumer electronics
goods – will be prohibited in all products in the EU by 2006.
Sweden leads Europe in recycling programmes already in place. Every Swede
gets through around 16kg of electrical goods every year, but more than half of
this is recycled.