Electronics Production | February 07, 2007

Confusion in the UK over WEEE

The Forum of Private Business (FPB) is concerned that with just six months to go before firms become responsible for disposing of electrical waste, there is still confusion over responsibilities and how the system will work.
The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive finally comes into force on 1 July 2007 in the United Kingdom but the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) is yet to publish its guidelines.

Businesses that should be considering the impact of the regulations include those which manufacture, brand or import electrical and electronic equipment (EEE), those businesses that sell EEE or store, treat or dismantle WEEE. Those firms could be responsible for the cost of collection, treatment and recycling of the equipment.

Philip Moody is Senior Member Services Representative at the FPB. He deals with member enquiries on the FPB helpline and says the regulations, despite their good intentions, leave many questions unanswered. He says: "The aim is to minimise the impact of electrical and electronic goods on the environment, increasing recycling and reducing the amount of WEEE going to landfill. But there is still a lot of confusion over how the system will work.
"Firms which deal in electrical goods are still unsure whether they, the manufacturer, the local council or someone else is going to be taking responsibility. They haven't been briefed properly by the DTI." he added.

Michael Pipe is Director of MJ Pipe, a medium-sized electrical retailer in Haverhill, Suffolk. He said he is still unsure who will be left with the bill for the disposal of equipment.
"I have read as much as I can on the WEEE Directive but I still don't know where I stand. Responsibilities are unclear, we already dispose of our fridges and washing machines but can't afford another potentially expensive cost."

Ten product categories:
The WEEE Regulations apply to EEE which falls within the 10 product categories listed in the European Commission's WEEE Directive. They are:

Large household appliances.
Small household appliances.
IT & telecommunications equipment.
Consumer equipment.
Lighting equipment.
Electrical and electronic tools.
Toys, leisure and sports equipment.
Medical devices.
Monitoring and control instruments.
Automatic dispensers.

The DTI has not yet published guidance on the regulations. However, it is holding a series of free half-day briefing seminars across the UK. There are actions that should be taken ahead of the July deadline. For example manufacturers or importers of electrical equipment must join a compliance scheme before 15 March. The Environment Agency is still approving those schemes; a list of 27 has been published.

Mr Pipe said he is confused as to how it will work: "No-one has communicated to us our responsibilities, no-one seems to know how it will work. The major retailers and manufacturers have held meetings to decide who will be responsible but I suspect the cost of this is going to be high, and it may push prices up."


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