The final WEEE countdown begins

The computing industry is starting to run out of time to ensure compliance with the WEEE directive.

The final WEEE countdown begins

The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive officially has come into force, making manufacturers accountable for reducing the amount of WEEE waste headed for land fill sites by reusing and recycling where possible and footing the associated bills.

The new legislation, which was originally meant to take effect in August 2005, has been welcomed by many environmental bodies, but IT professionals and manufacturers haven’t embraced the extra costs or responsibility involved.

Although the WEEE legislation kicked off 2 January, those affected have until the beginning of July to ensure they’re fully compliant, prompting them to form a relevant compliance partnership by 15 March.

Users will also be able to bring their old machines back to the point of sale for them to be responsibly reused or recycled, and companies will be expected to keep accurate records of such activity.

Despite the tight compliance timeline UK companies face, a recent survey by law firm Eversheds suggests that preparation is still far from a priority for many.

The research, conducted in mid-December, revealed that almost half (42 per cent) of manufacturers and retailers and just under three quarters (73 per cent) of in-house IT professionals didn’t understand their obligations.

Worryingly, some 22 per cent of those surveyed didn’t know what the WEEE directive was and 60 per cent thought the compliance deadline had already passed.

One thing the majority of those surveyed did agree on was that the directive would result in increased costs passed back on to users, although just how much additional expense would be incurred varied from respondent to respondent.

‘There is confusion in the minds of companies in the UK over their obligations with the WEEE Directive,’ said Jane Southworth, IT law partner at Eversheds.

‘The date for this regulation coming into force has changed so many times over the last few years, and we believe that many companies are now beginning to suffer from WEEE-fatigue, which has led to companies losing track of what are fundamentally very important issues for the environment.’

Southworth added: ‘Our research seems to suggest that UK companies, while having a fairly good level of awareness, have little idea as to their obligations, and even less will to comply with them. But with each person in the UK creating 3.3 tonnes of electrical waste over their lifetime, it’s essential that the directive is a success.’

While confusion remains in the IT and business community, charities have given the new directive a warmer reception.

Computer Aid, which specialises in computer refurbishment and has so far sent almost 80,000 PCs to more than 100 developing countries, has given the WEEE legislation the thumps up.

‘The introduction of the WEEE directive is a big step by the Government to reduce the environmental damage caused by the land filling of perfectly reusable computer equipment,’ said Tony Roberts, Computer Aid’s chief executive.

‘…We believe that recycling should be perceived as a last resort, especially when items like PCs can be refurbished and used for years by schools and health projects that currently simply cannot afford new computers.’

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