UK IT managers get clarification on recycling duties

The government has cleared up some of the responsibilities IT managers will face under newly-effective regulations, but suppliers still face an unclear picture.
Written by Andrew Donoghue, Contributor

Companies buying IT equipment should expect to negotiate with suppliers over whether to take on the recycling costs of new hardware, or simply pay a premium for the tech vendor to handle the process, according to the Environment Agency and DTI.

Speaking at the first of a series of nationwide seminars on the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations, in London on Wednesday, Bob Mead, WEEE implementation product manager at the Environment Agency (EA), outlined the responsibilities of those who buy technology for their company.

IT departments that want to get rid of equipment purchased before Aug. 13, 2005 are responsible for paying for its disposal, although if the company is buying replacement products--as part of a PC upgrade cycle, for instance--then the supplier of the new machines is responsible for disposing of the old ones.

If a corporation is looking to dispose of PCs or other IT equipment that falls under the WEEE regulations, purchased after Aug. 13, 2005, then the original supplier of the equipment is financially liable for its disposal unless it chooses to negotiate with the purchasing company.

"As part of the sales negotiations--the supplier can choose to pass on the obligations for non-household WEEE," explained Mead.

As such, larger organizations may find it cheaper to set up and pay for their own recycling processes, or may already have such a system in place, rather than paying whatever premium their supplier chooses to impose to cover the costs of complying with WEEE.

The WEEE directive finally came into law at the start of this year, but until now it has been unclear how it will affect the IT community.

However, despite shedding some light on the responsibilities IT managers may have under the new law, Mead admitted that the Environment Agency and the DTI were struggling to come up with a clear set of guidelines around WEEE and its implementation. "We couldn't start on a lot of detailed work until the regulations were introduced. So we don't have all the answers to all the questions yet," he explained.

It appears that some IT suppliers are not happy with the time it is taking the government to get to grips with the implications of WEEE. Defining exactly which company in convoluted technology supply chains--which often involve any number of manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers--should be responsible under WEEE is not proving easy.

One audience member at the seminar, representing the U.S. Department of Commerce, said he was attending on behalf of American manufacturers who were frustrated with the lack of answers from the DTI and EA over specific questions around WEEE. The government has an e-mail address that IT suppliers can contact with WEEE queries, but Tony Pedrotti, the DTI WEEE representative at the seminar, admitted it was currently taking at least two weeks to respond to questions. "We are not going to get to every goddamn question in two minutes. The turnaround time is two weeks but coming down," he said.

Meanwhile, IT services company Computacenter has announced a service to help businesses improve the management of the whole lifecycle of their IT hardware.

Launched on Wednesday, the "Green IT advisory Service" will provide companies with information on how to minimize the energy consumption of systems and the benefits of an IT refresh. However, if any new, hopefully more efficient, PCs are bought as a result of companies utilising the service, Computacenter has committed to offset the associated carbon emissions.

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