Tech recycling law finally arrives

Tech recycling law finally arrives

Summary: The WEEE directive has come into force in the UK, but its impact on hardware pricing will not become clear until later this year

TOPICS: Hardware

Much-delayed legislation that will force technology manufacturers to bear the financial costs of recycling tech equipment has finally come into force in the UK.

The EU Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive is expected to drive up the costs of IT and other tech hardware, as manufacturers are forced to cover the cost of recovering and recycling the items.

However, it's not yet clear what impact the legislation will have, and when. Manufacturers are still seeking guidance from the government about what exactly their responsibilities are under WEEE, and which hardware will be subject to new law. And although the DTI says the WEEE directive came into force on Tuesday, it will not take full effect until 1 July, 2007 when manufacturers will have to begin covering the costs of technology recycling and recovery.

Under the terms of the legislation, manufacturers — or "producers", in government parlance — are expected to team up with a partner organisation that promotes re-use or recycling of tech equipment by 15 March, 2007.

The directive was originally meant to become law in the UK in August 2005, but in March the DTI announced it would be delayed until January 2006. Then in August 2005 the DTI announced that the legislation would be delayed until at least June 2006.

Analyst group Gartner is confident that vendor recycling costs will ultimately be passed on to end-user organisations. In a research note, EU's New Recycling Rules Could Drive Up European PC Prices, the analyst group estimated that legal changes could add $60 (£33) to the price of PCs in Europe.

Computer Aid International specialises in taking old PCs from businesses and refurbishing them for the use of schools in the developing world. The charity's chief executive Tony Roberts said that by introducing WEEE, the government had taken a big step towards reducing the environmental damage caused by discarding tech equipment — much of which could still be put to good use.

"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," Roberts said.

Topic: Hardware

Andrew Donoghue

About Andrew Donoghue

"If I'd written all the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people - including me - would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism."

Hunter S. Thompson

Andrew Donoghue is a freelance technology and business journalist with over ten years on leading titles such as Computing, SC Magazine, BusinessGreen and

Specialising in sustainable IT and technology in the developing world, he has reported and volunteered on African aid projects, as well as working with charitable organisations such as the UN Foundation and Computer Aid.

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  • Can

    I can't help being selfish and therefore negative about this change.

    1) Increased costs for hardware
    2) It used to be cheap an easy to get hold of old/unwanted hardware for resale or for friends to use. I guess with the proper channels in place it will mostly go to these 3rd parties then on to other countires.
  • Tinkering

    Will definitely stop people being able to practise pulling them apart and learning how this stuff goes together. Will be bad for up and coming young geeks.
    Trust me i can help
  • reuse it don

    It is better to reuse the bits than send them to a recycler. At the moment much of the kit is shredded and then material recovered.

    Also, household waste dosn't have to go via the new system, so if friends are chucking out old kit, it makes sense for them to pass it on and get and extra bit of use from some or all of it.
  • Worry not

    Don't fret about being selfish and don't worry about cheap secondhand stuff disappearing. The WEEE directive is a crock. It is, in my opinion and others', a waste of considerable effort and money to no useul end. It has cost us considerable time and effort in weighing all of our products again. Again because each package contains some parts eligible for WEEE and some items not. So the existing weight, for Customs purposes, is wrong for WEEE purposes, so it all had to be done again.
    Additionally, we have to pay a significant set-up fee to our "service provider" and an annual fee for their services (demanding reports from us about goods sold to businesses "B2B" and customers "B2C"). What we actually pay for recycling of the goods is a mere