The EU, love or hate it (and I know which side of the fence I sit on,) in these days of declining western manufacturing is still a major producer, albeit only of regulations. One in particular that is going to have a major impact on both consumers and producers of electronics is the Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment Directive (WEEE,) which is already in force in most of the EU excepting the UK and Malta. This in conjunction with the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS,) sets targets for the recycling and recovery targets for all types of electronic goods.
Why electronic goods I hear you ask, well when you think about it, most of the stuff that we take for granted these days from your Xbox to your mobile phone is composed of interesting exotic material, much of which is toxic. Hence why chewing on your PC even when you’ve forgotten the lunch time 2nd bag of hula hoops is never a good idea.
Traditionally it has been the consumer’s job to dispose of such hazardous waste. This has generally in Britain at least, been accomplished by the odd Saturday trip to the dump, and looking for a reasonably available looking skip to throw the old Betamax in. WEEE, will put more of the responsibility back onto the producer, and the retailer of the product, and will apply to wide range of goods from a mainframe through to a broken iPod.
As the producer (and retailer) will now have to pay towards the recovery, treatment and recycling of the equipment it will start to make sense for them to become involved, if not the instigators of the recovery programmes. It will also begin to make more sense for them to provide equipment that lasts longer, perhaps even more modular equipment where upgrading doesn’t involve disposing of the whole product.
To find out more about both of these directives, check out this article. Now those that know me will tell you I’m no dyed in the wool liberal, or even particularly green, and I’m certainly not an admirer of much that emanates from the EU, but even I think that the principles outlined in these directives are for the most part sensible, just in the way it might start both producers and users thinking. I doubt very much that it will herald a return to products that are able to outlast their owners, but I’m sure it will mean that we do start looking at how much we do just use and throw away, and are there better ways to consume and do business.
The UK will be implementing RoHS on July the 1st this year, and whilst there is still no fixed date for the implementation of WEEE, there are rumours of informal discussions to at least start talking about a date.
Well that’s it for another week, have a great bank holiday and we’ll be back after the break