Many of the EU's electrical and electronic product manufacturers are currently working towards providing practical take-back and/or recycling programmes in accordance with the Waste Electrical Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive. Global information technology company Dell, whose European manufacturing, sales and associated services headquarters is in the Republic of Ireland, has just released figures demonstrating the early success of its 'No computer should go to waste' campaign.
Founded in the US in 1984, Dell set up its Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) operation in Ireland in 1990.
With a manufacturing facility in Limerick and sales, marketing and support operations in Bray and Cherrywood, Dell has become Ireland's largest exporter, largest technology company and second largest company overall.
Far from being fazed by this obligation, Dell EMEA has already set a take-back and recycling campaign in motion.
Early indications show that the scheme has not only raised awareness but also encouraged consumer recycling of end-of-life computer equipment.
Research carried out at the end of 2004 on behalf of Dell EMEA found that while consumers disposed of their household waste in a responsible manner, they did not apply the same practices to their home PCs which were no longer in use.
It found that while 85% of Irish consumers were prepared to recycle their household waste at least once a month, only 9% planned to recycle their PC once it was too old to use.
Dell EMEA's initial attempts at turning the situation around have followed the environmental blueprint pioneered and honed by its US parent.
The company ethos to "create a culture where environmental excellence is second nature" translates in real terms as waste minimisation, recycling and reuse.
Putting these into practice, Dell EMEA launched a consumer recycling programme as part of its asset recovery services (ARS) with a consumer event in Limerick where householders were invited to return old computer equipment for recycling. The event, which resulted in the collection of 18 tonnes of equipment, has since been supplemented by the launch of an on-line recycling scheme and a computer donation programme.
Since the launch, the Irish schemes have become extremely popular, now accounting for some 27% of the total consumer recycling programme carried out by Dell in the entire EMEA area.
Jean Cox-Kearns, Dell's senior manager for ARS in EMEA, says: "Last year alone, Irish customers recycled more than 22 tonnes of computer equipment for free through Dell. These figures not only place Irish consumers in the top tier of our EMEA region but also emphasise the importance of having these services available.
"As an environmentally responsible company offering a whole range of recycling services, we are delighted to see our Irish customer base respond so positively. It makes sense to provide these services in the country where we have our EMEA manufacturing headquarters."