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Government warning over hazardous IT waste

Businesses need to prepare for new legislation that will affect the disposal of equipment such as CRT monitors

The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is warning companies disposing of redundant IT equipment such as computer monitors that they may find themselves falling foul of new hazardous waste legislation.

The new waste standards, or waste acceptance criteria (WAC), are due to be introduced on the 16th July and will force businesses to describe exactly what their waste contains so that it can be disposed of in the proper way.

Businesses that produce any waste classified as hazardous will have to ensure that they discuss with their waste contractor or landfill operator the best method for the disposal of hazardous material.

"It is essential that businesses act now. With many businesses finding themselves hazardous waste producers for the first time, the full implications of the new controls may not be fully appreciated," said Ben Bradshaw, minister for local environment quality.

According to Defra, companies may find themselves open to prosecution if they fail to comply with the WAC. Due to their chemical content, some everyday business items such as computer monitors, televisions and fluorescent tubes have now joined materials such as asbestos under the 'hazardous' banner. The environment agency says the glass in CRT monitors contains heavy metals such as lead and barium and a phosphor coating onto which the beam of electrons is projected to form the image.

The new waste standards come just ahead of European regulation around the recycling of Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE).

The WEEE directive was due to be incorporated into UK law in August this year but in an open letter released in March, the DTI revealed that most will not be written into the statute books until January 2006.

Friends of the Earth senior waste campaigner Claire Wilton said the group was fully behind the WEEE directive and was obviously disappointed by the delays. "It's a good directive and it brings environmental benefits so it’s a shame that it has been delayed. We are looking for the government to sort out the system so that when it does come in it works efficiently and we don't build up problems for ourselves in recycling electronic goods," she said.

Analyst group Gartner claims vendor recycling costs will ultimately be passed on to end-user organisations. In a recent 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 by the end of 2005.