EU recycling directive to hit PC retailers

An eco-friendly directive from Brussels could have a major impact on the computer retailers, dealers and manufacturers, according to ICL's head of corporate environmental affairs, Joy Boyce.

The directive, now in its third draft and due to be finalised by the end of the year looks set to put responsibility for disposal of used PCs firmly with the retailers. A consumer will have the right to return computers they no longer require to the shop they purchased it from. The vendor will be legally obliged to dispose of the computer in an environmentally-friendly way.

Leslie Smith, director of corporate affairs at Dixons Group believes the current EU draft is seriously flawed. "It is impractical to make retailers responsible for used PCs as customers rarely bring them back." Dixons is considering a variety of recycling schemes to reduce the amount of electrical goods that currently go to land-fill sites.

The directive is also likely to hinder manufacturers of PCs. Lead-based materials will be banned and a percentage of recycled plastic must be included in every new machine.

For manufacturers used to Far Eastern production lines, finding recycled material could pose serious problems, according to Boyce. Product manager for Compaq David Matthews is not too concerned. "Our PCs are already eco-friendly," he said.

For large organisations the new law could prove something of a headache. Ahead of legislation, ICL and Marks & Spencer have launched a ‘business green dream' to address the problem. In the coming 18 months, M&S will be replacing 100,000 tilling systems and PCs.

Under the scheme, this obsolete equipment will be returned to ICL for recycling - 75 percent will be re-used, 15 percent will be distributed to charities and schools, 5 percent will be resold and 5 percent stripped down and environmentally recycled.

"We hope that our approved recycler programme will help to raise the issue of how IT equipment is disposed of at the end-of-life," said Boyce, "and hopefully encourage other vendors to follow a similar path."