With the WEEE directive planned for implementation in July 2007, retailers have agreed to fund the upgrade of council civic amenity sites to handle WEEE to the tune of around £6,500 per site.
But most councils do not think this will be enough. They also fear that there is no provision to pay for the operational costs of running larger sites estimated at about £9 million a year.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said councils faced an impossible situation and that many may simply refuse to take part in the schemes.
LGA environment board chairman Paul Bettison said: It's totally unacceptable that the council taxpayer should be expected to shoulder the burden for new schemes that businesses should be paying for. Retailers are holding the whole process to ransom. Unless they are willing to contribute more to councils' costs, then it's possible that many town halls simply won't be able to afford to get involved.
He added: Without councils' involvement and their recycling centres there's little chance of the new system working.
Bettison said that it made perfect sense for businesses to make use of council refuse and recycling centres to handle WEEE.
Local authorities have the experience and the expertise. However, councils won't take part if they have to foot the bill. The law makes clear that it must be the producer that pays."