Here WEEE go recycling

By Dr Matt Wilkinson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Recycling, Uk

With the WEEE regulations finally coming into effect in the UK at
the start of July, looks into the implications
for laboratory users and suppliers.

Last Sunday the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) regulation came into effect in the UK to minimise the impact of waste electrical goods on the environment by increasing re-use and recycling of equipment rather than it ending up in the UK's already overcrowded landfill sites. Technically the end-user is now not allowed to throw waste electrical items into the bin and they could theoretically face repercussions if the Environment Agency was to discover that WEEE was not being recycled appropriately. Responsibility for the collection and recycling of WEEE has been placed on the equipment supplier once they have been notified about the need for disposal. With government registration being prohibitively expensive for small companies in terms of time, effort and paper work as many as 37 compliance schemes have been set up to help reduce these costs. The WEEE directive was agreed in February 2003 along with the Restrictions of the use of certain Hazardous Substances (RoHS) in electronic equipment and together they aim to reduce the amount of waste entering the environment. The directive sets out 10 different categories of products that come under the regulations with three of these potentially including laboratory equipment: Category 3, IT and Telecommunications equipment; Category 8, Medical devices; and Category 9, Monitoring and control instruments. With the regulations being focussed on consumer-products there is some confusion over how business products should be handled. This has led a group of trade associations, including the UK's laboratory technology industry trade body GAMBICA, to set up a not for profit organisation called b2bcompliance​. According to David Burton, project director at b2bcompliance, the organisation has been set up to protect the interests of their members and provide an entire service to clients from registration to disposal as well as supplying evidence they are complying with the legislation. Having the backing of trade associations such as GAMBICA has helped b2bcompliance differentiate themselves from other bodies that may not be so reputable. "It takes some time to understand the legislation and find the right people to sign up with, we have to be legally compliant and you have to go to someone like b2bcompliance to find out what the deal is or else you would have to wade through an enormous amount of paperwork,"​ said Andrew Lovett, head of R&D at Syrris in an interview. While the deadline for compliance registration was March 15, 2007, b2bcompliance can still enrol producers and with the government starting to chase up companies that are yet to register with a scheme. Of course signing up to any scheme comes at a price with different organisations charging members in different ways whether by registration fees, annual subscription or amount of WEEE collected. However, as b2bcompliance was set-up as a not-for-profit organisation costs are kept to a minimum and with about 400 members, economies of scale should ensure that the recycling is cheaper than a single company could hope to organise. With end-users not being particularly well informed about the issues as yet there is still room for confusion as to what equipment suppliers are responsible for. The regulations suggest that if a company supplies a replacement product to a customer, they are responsible for recycling the old equipment if it was purchased before 2005 irrespective of manufacturer on a 'like-for-like' basis. This has the potential to lead to disagreement as to the exact definition of like-for-like replacements and could lead to suppliers recycling goods that they technically are not responsible for in order to maintain good customer relations. With the legislation only just coming into effect it is very difficult for companies to judge which organisation to sign up with as none of them have a track record as yet - there are apparently seven schemes that appear to have no members signed up as yet.

Related topics: Contract Manufacturing & Logistics

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