Further Delays to UK's E-Waste Regulations

Client Alert

The UK’s Department of Trade and Industry announced on 10 August 2005 further delays to the full UK implementation of the EU Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment.  The long debated producer responsibility and retailer take-back obligations in respect of waste electrical and electronic equipment are now due to take effect in June 2006. The requirement to mark the product with a label depicting a struck-out wheelie-bin needs to be displayed on products from January and February 2006.

The "WEEE Directive" encourages (with registration requirements and financial penalties) the re-use, recycling and recovery of WEEE and is aimed ultimately at improving the environmental performance of all operators involved in the lifecycle of WEEE, including obsolete IT equipment.

Whilst producers and retailers are gearing up to meet the impending liability regime, business users may not be aware of their own responsibilities under the new law. Depending on whether or not the WEEE disposed of is "historic" (i.e., put on the market before 13 August 2005) or replaced on a like-for-like basis, the business user could be committing a criminal offence (under current draft Regulations) for failing to meet (and record) certain targets for the treatment, recovery and recycling of such WEEE. 

The WEEE Directive is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of new eco laws affecting the IT industry, for example:

  • A closely related law, although focused on the initial design and manufacturing phase, is the RoHS Directive which bans or minimises the use of certain hazardous substances (including lead, cadmium and mercury) used in EEE. 
  • The framework Directive for Eco-Design for Energy Using Products (EuP), adopted on 13 April 2005, aims at improving the environmental performance of products throughout their life-cycle by systematic integration of environmental aspects at the earliest stage of their design.
  • Two Commission decisions (of 11 April 2005) on eco-labelling which revise the ecological criteria for awarding the eco-label in the PC and laptop groups.
  • Toxic chemical law will undergo a major change in 2006 when the EU is expected to enact the Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) Directive, which requires registration of chemicals made in or imported to the EU, including sometimes cost prohibitive assessment of the risks arising from chemical use, and implementation of measures to manage risks.  Manufacturers of LCD screens will be watching further developments closely.

Both the WEEE and the RoHS Directive required implementation in national laws by 13 August 2004. The UK is one of only a few European Member States that have so far failed to implement the Directive. No doubt producers, retailers and business users alike will welcome the respite resulting from the fact that "a UK-wide network of WEEE collection facilities will not be ready by the start of the next year" (DTI, 10 August 2005).

In the meantime, the extra time will allow business users to get up to speed, revisit their processes, identify potential risks and cost effective means of achieving compliance with the impending laws.

Further information:

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