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 user 2005-04-06 at 11:13:00 am Views: 98
  • #8651
    UK puts back e-waste law to 2006
    The 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
    its law.

    “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.

    ‘Right move’

    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 Packard
    She said the government should to put in place mechanisms to help
    this process.

    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.

    Growing gadgetry

    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.