A WEEE bit of news

Tuesday 14 June 2011 15:16

The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment government directive came into force on 1st July. It has taken four years for the legislation to become law resulting in another 5 million tonnes of electronic waste ending up in landfill sites.

The WEEE is designed to ensure that British importers and global manufacturers of electronic products are responsible for the recycling of goods to the quantity of new products that they sell. There are thirty-seven Producer Compliance Schemes in the UK that are monitored by the Environment Agency and which collect and recycle electronic goods on behalf of manufacturers. The more goods a manufacturer sells the more the manufacturer must pay towards recycling. Retailers also have to play their part and set up schemes within shops and stores to take back old electronic goods, such as mobile phones.

Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment includes personal computers, video and DVD players, all games consoles, microwaves, washing machines and dishwashers. Electronic waste has been the fastest growing area of waste in the EU and for too many years, manufacturers have not paid a penny towards recycling programmes. Thanks to the government finally facing up to the need for comprehensive and legally enforceable waste recycling, manufacturers and retailers are reluctantly taking responsibility for their goods’ lifecycle. If the authorities dig beneath the pavements in Rome, there are wonderful examples of Roman ingenuity. In two thousand years time, there will not be the same level of pleasure when millions upon millions of old computers are found in landfill sites.

Televisions are another area of concern for waste management because people are striving to exchange their old TVs for the latest LCD or plasma widescreen, although the market for new TVs has slowed in the current recession. Sluggish consumerism is definitely helping the global environment. People are not upgrading mobile phones with the same alacrity as before, fewer planes are taking to the skies, there is less talk of airport expansion, and food waste has reduced.

Now we have the WEEE, when the economy picks up, the law should be fully effective in coping with the subsequent upsurge in electronic waste. Let us all hope so.

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