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News analysis: the DTI's incompetent handling of the WEEE directive

The Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) is set to reveal that the implementation date of the Waste Electrical Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive will be delayed, possibly until 2006.

Over the past year, MRW's pages have been full of stories delivering excruciating episode upon episode in the floundering directive's short but eventful history.

The WEEE directive, which aims to increase the collection, recovery and recycling of electro-scrap, should have been transposed into UK law by August 13, 2004.

But the Government's final consultation on the law did not close until October 29 2004.

In November 2004, MRW revealed that the Government was worried it wouldn't be able to implement the system at the heart of its draft WEEE regulations.

DTI officials told industry figures in a secret meeting that the National Clearing House (NCH), a call-centre putting collectors in touch with recyclers and calculating how much producers of WEEE should pay according to market share, would be ruled an illegal monopoly.

The official DTI line was one of denial, but the planned January launch of the NCH came and went and it now looks as though there will never be an NCH.

However, the Government has still yet to reveal what the final allocation system will be, or for that matter, any of the other details of the WEEE regulations.

This has infuriated those responsible for the recycling of WEEE.

The Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) has warned that the delays could mean the money to fund changes to collection sites would not be available.

LARAC chairman Lee Marshall said: "Councils are finalising their budgets for next year, and may not be including money to upgrade civic amenity sites.

"If the implementation of the WEEE Directive then requires changes, the funding may not be available."

The Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) represents environmental businesses' interests and in a letter to Environment Minister Elliot Morley in February EIC chairman Merlin Hyman called "lack of clear and timely guidance" one of the main barriers to recycling technologies.

Commenting on the prospect of delayed implementation until 2006, EIC deputy director Bill Leverett said: "It's a severe setback not just for the waste processing industry but for electronics manufacturers and retailers as well. It means Europe is running at two different speeds."

Germany, for example, has implemented the directive already.

Trade body DARP Environmental managing director Lorie Randall said: "Every day the WEEE Directive is not implemented here, we are losing investment to Germany - and we are talking about a total of £400m per year."

However, Germany has also admitted that the producer responsibility aspect of the law will not kick in until after the EU-prescribed date of August 13 2005.

While the UK is not likely to implement the WEEE directive by August 13, the Government has failed to say when it will be implemented and has failed to give any indication of what the law will be or how it will work.

And when the directive is finally implemented, it won't be by the department that has so far been responsible for it.

All three of the major political parties have vowed to reform the DTI if they come to power after the

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