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Feature: Charity case

It all seemed to have gone quiet on the WEEE front. Producers had heaved a sigh of relief at the Government's plans to delay implementation of the Waste Electrical Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive until January 2006 and a calm descended on the frantic lobbying that characterised the run-up to Christmas. That was until a seven metre tall, three tonne human-like sculpture made from electro scrap turned up at London's South Bank.

The WEEE Man was created in a joint venture by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce (RSA) and Canon Europe to highlight the growing problem of WEEE in the UK and across Europe. The waste giant has been designed to represent the amount of electrical appliance and electronic waste that an average person in the UK is likely to produce in their lifetime.

Over one million tonnes of WEEE goes to landfill every year. To calculate the weight of the WEEE man, that one million tonnes was divided by the UK population of 60 million. The average life expectancy for a UK citizen is 77 years: taking the example of a 21 year-old in 2003 living until 2059, anticipating a WEEE growth rate of around 4% they would produce 3.3 tonnes of WEEE in their lifetime. It is expected that a person born in 2003 and living until 2080 would generate eight tonnes of WEEE in theirs.

Composed of, among other things, washing machines, televisions, mobile phones and vacuum cleaner tubes, WEEE Man will be on display at City Hall until May 27 and then at the Eden Project for the summer. The object of the exercise is to make the disposal of electrical and electronic goods as widely accepted as the recycling of newspapers, glass and aluminium.

So with the delay in implementation established, the Government seems to be enjoying a step back from the WEEE debacle. Despite this, the bid for increased public awareness of e-waste continues - and it is not just the province of the arts. Charities and businesses alike are securing the ear of the public and industry with schemes that not only highlight just how much we throw away, but realise the innate value of the appliances themselves.

Established in 1998, Computer Aid International is a registered charity and the world's largest not-for-profit supplier of professionally refurbished Pentium computers to schools and community organisations in developing countries. Based in London, Computer Aid International tests, refurbishes, packs and ships donated Pentium computers from the UK.

The charity has already shipped over 45,000 PCs to more than 90 developing countries. Of the 45,000 shipped, over 25,000 have gone to educational institutions and the remaining to community organisations working in fields such as HIV/Aids, the environment, human rights and primary healthcare.

Computer Aid International aims to increase the number of UK organisations donating their used IT equipment for re-use overseas. It then identifies and works with the recipients, providing training and work experience in computer repair to people from socially excluded communities in its workshops in the UK.

Every year in the UK approximately three million PCs are decommissioned and are no longer in use, despite the fact that many of them are in good working order. According to Computer Aid International, 99% of schoolchildren in the developing world graduate from high school without having seen or touched a computer in the classroom.

Last year the group launched an appeal for 25,000 end-of-life Pentium PCs to meet the enormous need in schools and community groups across the world. Computer Aid International chi

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