UK gets final warning on e-waste

The European Commission is losing patience with Britain's failure to bring in laws forcing companies and manufacturers to be responsible for IT recycling

The UK could be dragged before the European Court for its failure to implement laws that would make manufacturers responsible for the recycling of IT waste.

The European Commission announced on Monday 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 EU Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (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 has sent letters to these eight countries asking for their reasons for not implementing the WEEE directive. They have 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.

Ultimately, if these countries don't transpose the directive into national law then they could face an unlimited fine, but it is unlikely that the situation will reach that stage.

"There is always a certain flexibility in the system," said the spokeswoman, emphasising that the Commission wants to get its legislation enacted across Europe rather than take countries to court.

WEEE is intended to make manufacturers and consumers of technology more responsible for its disposal. The UK government has repeatedly delayed turning the WEEE directive into national law. The original target was 2004, but this later slipped to August 2005 and then to January 2006.