The BBC has an excellent Q&A on the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive which came into force in the UK and the rest of the European Union on July 1st. “It requires member nations to collect and recycle the equivalent of 4kg of ‘e-waste’ for every person living in the country”. E-waste is electronic equipment waste, such as televisions, PC’s, microwaves and so on.
With people in Britain changing mobile phone on average every 18 months, and computers every 3 years, the amount of e-waste is increasing massively. Currently about 90% of these gadgets end up in landfill, an estimated 1.2m tonnes a year. Manufacturers, importers and retailers of electronic and electrical goods are now obliged to put systems in place that allow customers to recycle their obsolete devices free of charge.
They also have to join one of 37 authorised “producer compliance schemes”. However these schemes let them pay a percentage of the total cost of recycling, based on their market share, meaning that potentially manufacturers with better designed products can be penalised, as they do not benefit from the environmental savings their products make.
However, with the amount of gadgets in the home set to double by 2010, there will be an ever increasing amount of WEEE to deal with, and the current legislation is a step in the right direction.