Recycling legislation delayed six months - again

The UK government won't implement a directive forcing technology manufacturers to take responsibility for recycling and disposal until June 2006, despite being threatened by the EC

The implementation of legislation designed to make manufacturers and consumers of electronic equipment more responsible for its disposal has been delayed by a further six months due to a lack of sufficient infrastructure to manage the task.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) announced on Wednesday the EU Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) directive will not be enacted into UK legislation until at least June 2006. The directive was originally meant to become law in the UK this month, but in March the DTI announced it would be delayed until January 2006.

The latest delay to WEEE comes after the European Commission sent a warning to the UK government in July warning that the government could be dragged before the European Court for failing to enact legislation in the specified time-frame.

Commenting on the delay, DTI minister Malcolm Wicks said the legislation has required a lot of preparations for parties involved including the business community and other stakeholders. "This directive is about dealing effectively with electrical waste which can be damaging to the environment. It is challenging and has required a lot of planning and preparation but our priority is to get this right."

Jeff Cooper, the Environment Agency's manager for waste producer responsibility, explained that although WEEE will not be enacted and enforced until June 2006, preparations for compliance will begin in the next few months.

"The Environment Agency will work closely with government departments and the devolved administrations to implement the forthcoming WEEE regulations. We expect to be able to announce arrangements for the registration of producers in the early autumn with registration starting in January 2006."

John Higgins, director general of IT industry body Intellect, welcomed the further delay to the directive claiming that getting the strategy for its implementation was paramount. He also urged the DTI to pay attention to industry calls for a national clearing house — the collective name given to the infrastructure required to get the waste IT from consumers and businesses to the manufacturers charged with its disposal.

"As we now move to implementation of the WEEE regulation we consider it even more vital that the Environment Agency and government departments pay attention to industry's calls for [a] national clearing house scheme. Manufacturers of WEEE products consider a national clearing house scheme to be the only viable option. It will enable them to effectively spread the financial load, thereby limiting the ultimate cost felt by the consumer."

Industry proposals for a National Clearing House were recently vetoed by the DTI as being too complex. Businesses are concerned that the alternative suggested by the DTI is not logical or workable.

The European Commission announced in July that it was taking legal action against Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Poland and the UK. All eight countries have yet to enact the WEEE directive into national law.

"We need an explanation as to why countries can't implement legislation. This directive had been on the books for a long time, and other countries have implemented it," a spokeswoman for the EC's environment commissioner told ZDNet UK.

The EC sent letters to these eight countries asking for their reasons for not implementing the Directive, and gave them 60 days to respond. If the EC is not happy with their reasons then it will refer the matter to the European Court, which could order a country to act.