Pay as you throw? WEEE regs finally here

The European directive on the disposal of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) finally became part of UK law on January 2nd, although originally it was hoped it would be adopted by all member states more than two years ago. Some of the provisions will not come into full force until 1st July 2007, but all firms need to start planning for this now.

The full text can be found on the DTI website – Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2006 (pdf).

If you are involved in the manufacture or resale of goods which fall under the definition of the act you need to ensure you have the right labelling, and agreements with your suppliers and customers which make clear who is responsible for disposal issues. These agreements may have to treat consumers (“private households”) differently from business purchasers. Ultimately most businesses will be responsible for the management and cost of proper disposal, although part 6 makes it clear that there is nothing to prevent a business making other contractual arrangements with their suppliers.

If you are an IT manager planning a major replacement or upgrade programme, it would be worth including the disposal of old equipment in the scope you define before going out to tender for a supplier. If you don’t make sure this is covered you may come into work one Monday morning to find a large pile of PC’s and monitors on your office doorstep. Worse still, it might be an inspector from the Environment Agency paying a visit…

Of course, it is not just about planning at work, we all need to be a bit more considerate in the way we get rid of out of date consumer products anyway with our glut of mobile phones, music players and games consoles. Hopefully this regulation will give us real alternatives so we can comply with the instructions on the box that state “this product must not be disposed of in your household waste”. The downside of course is that ultimately these costs will get passed on down the chain and end up raising prices to the consumer. But maybe if you paid twice as much for that new iPod you would think twice before upgrading and this might slow some of the waste production and the use of raw materials and finite resources.

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