Experts have warned that pan-European legislations on recycling and reducing hazardous materials in electrical products are failing before they begin.
The UK is already being taken to the European court for non-implementation of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, while the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive that comes into effect on July 1 will cause further problems.
Eco3 director Mark Shayler believes that with the WEEE laws already in place across most of the continent; new problems are emerging as countries interpret them differently.
“For example, some countries require a visible fee to be charged when a product is sold, others don’t; some countries define products in different ways, and the definition of key terms in RoHS differs from one country to another.”
Huge variations can be observed, with non-compliance under RoHS attracting a fine of €1,500 in France, but the similar offence bringing charges of €10-15 million in Ireland.
While Eco3 has trained over 1,000 people in the implications of the regulations, it is concerned that around 80% of businesses are still not fully prepared or are not aware of their responsibilities.
Shayler added: “The whole situation has become a nightmare for the 100,000 or so companies and retailers in the UK that make or import electrical or electronic goods.
“They are now completely confused and are hiding their heads in the sand over the WEEE regulations in particular, because they don’t know when they’re going to be implemented.”
With RoHS due to be implemented on July 1, there appears to be confusion over whether it will apply to products being imported, manufactured, put on the shelf or sold on that date.
But Eco3 question whether the emphasis is being put too firmly on end of life rather than design.
“If products were designed with the environment in mind, then we could worry less about what was going to happen at the end of life. We may be approaching this totally from the wrong angle. The largest impact of most electrical equipment is energy use, yet the regulations focus on product disposal”, Shayler concluded.
23/06/2006: Good article. It seems this is the variations of interpretation are the white elephant nobody wants to acknowledge yet, clearly it is having a significant impact on implementation. I disagree with the comment about "approaching this totally from the wrong angle." Energy usage and waster disposal are mutually exclusive. Both are important environmental problems that can and should be addressed separately.
28/06/2006: Here we are only a few days from July 1. Yet, the directive and its implementation are still as vague and ill-advised as they ever were. There was not an environmental impact assesment done. What negative science there was, was ignored by the EU. It is hardly green, given the much higher energy needed to melt the substitute solders. These substitutes have not been shown to be any more friendly to the environment than lead was. They are also more expensive. The reliablity issue i