UK Delays European Appliance Recycling Plan
Mar 28, 2005
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The UK government postponed implementation of an EU directive that would have forced retailers and manufacturers to recycle half a million tons of mobile phones, toasters, radios, televisions, computers, washing machines, refrigerators, and other electrical goods.

Officials at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) are proposing to delay recycling until January 2006. Meanwhile, 90 percent of household electrical goods will continue to be dumped in landfill sites.

The Directive on Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) is designed to prevent a million tons of household electrical equipment being sent to landfill sites each year. However, the volumes of electrical equipment being dumped each year -- 2 million televisions, 3 million refrigerators and freezers, 2 million computers, and 2.2 million washing machines -- left traders fearing they would be overwhelmed and been lobbying for more time to prepare.

The Directive aims to prevent dumped toxic substances from infiltrating drinking water supplies, as well as to re-use materials. Consumer electronics alone are reportedly responsible for 40 percent of the lead found in landfill sites and watercourses, contaminating drinking water supplies. Another toxic metal, cadmium, is used in infrared detectors, computers, and other consumer goods.

The Recycling Electrical Producers' Industry Consortium (Repic), which includes manufacturers such as Indesit, Bosch, Siemens, Hoover, Candy, Panasonic, Philips, Sony, Electrolux, Kenwood, Hitachi, and Sharp, want consumers to pay a "recycling fee" when they buy equipment to pay for the cost of disposing of old units.

"Premature implementation of the directive would have led to higher costs for consumers and put UK jobs at risk," Philip Morton, Repic's chief executive, said. "We now have an opportunity to find solutions that work for everyone."

The European government reportedly failed to publish regulations and a timetable, but now says it cannot do so until after the expected general election in May, making it impossible for industry to gear themselves up for the August deadline.

A DTI spokeswoman said the UK was not alone in having trouble implementing the Directive on time. Germany was also going to postpone recycling until January 1, 2006. "We need to get everything properly in place before we go ahead," she said. (The Guardian)

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