Tech recycling law finally arrives

The WEEE directive has come into force in the UK, but its impact on hardware pricing will not become clear until later this year
Written by Andrew Donoghue, Contributor

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.

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