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Environmental Update for the Hardware and Supplies Industry in Europe


The WEEE Directive (Electrical and Electronic Environmental Legislation)
 
The environment has been an important issue for the hardware and supplies industries for many years. Office automation companies have been improving their environmental charters by implementing environmentally-friendly practices. Up until this year, environmental labels have been mostly voluntary, with many operating on a country or regional basis. With the introduction WEEE directive, this is all changing.

The WEEE directive is due to come into force during Summer 2004 in the original member states. Member countries have been aware for some time that this would be happening to give businesses and the local government a chance to prepare for the impact of large-scale take-back and recycling programmes. In August 2005, after giving businesses a year to get used to the new scheme and put collection and recycling schemes in place, the Directive will make producers of such equipment responsible for financing at least the collection of waste electrical and electronic equipment from central points, specialist treatment, and meeting targets for re-use, recycling, and recovery. A producer is defined as any company that, irrespective of the selling technique used:

  • Manufactures and sells its own brand electrical and electronic equipment
  • Resells equipment produced by other suppliers under its own brand
  • Imports or exports affected equipment into an EU Member state

In terms of timeframes for implementing the directive, producers must be able to finance collection and treatment of WEEE by mid-2005. By 2007, these producers must be hitting the WEEE recycling and recovery targets.

The Directive does give EU producers some scope to develop and refine their collection and recycling schemes. Nevertheless, those manufacturers or resellers who have thus far done little to implement a scheme will find it challenging from a logistical and financial perspective.

The Table below outlines the manufacturers, suppliers, and market sectors that will be affected.

Table 1: Market Sectors Affected by the WEEE Directive

 

IT Telecoms and Consumer Equipment

Electrical/Electronic Tools (large industrial tools are exempt)

Monitoring and Control Instruments*

Toys, Leisure, Sports and Medical Equipment*

Power Supplies

x

x

x

x

Housings and Electrical/Mechanical Attachments

x

x

x

x

Motors and Drives

x

x

x

x

Printed Circuit Boards

x

x

x

x

Electronic Components

x

x

x

x

Displays

x

x

x

x

Switches, sockets, connectors and wiring

x

x

x

x

Source: Department of Trade and Industry UK

Impact on Consumables

There is no doubt that the initial weeks, months, and even years of this legislation will prove to be challenging, with huge questions concerning issues of logistics and costs. Nevertheless, this scheme does represent a first step towards greater collective responsibility in the manufacturing field.

Whilst peripherals such as printers and copiers will be covered under the IT Telecoms and Consumer Equipment grouping, the directive in its current form does not consider consumables such as toner cartridges to be part of the hardware and these products will therefore not be subject to the directive on recycling. Nevertheless, there are some grey areas in the current proposal and one of these is the cartridges that remain in the printers, copiers, and fax machines at the ends of their lives. For example, if a printer is sent for recycling and it still contains an empty toner cartridge, this cartridge would be deemed to be part of the printer and therefore would need to be disposed of in the manner laid down by the EU. When consumables are sold into the market as new items, however, they are not covered by WEEE. The same would hold true for any consumable removed from a printer or copier before it is sent for final disposal.

Nevertheless, it is believed that supplies could be covered at some point in the future unless manufacturers and resellers can come up with their own schemes for recycling, which would make a mandatory scheme unnecessary. The timeframe for this is likely to be considerable, however, given the length of time it has taken the EU to introduce the WEEE for hardware.

The preceding is an excerpt from InfoTrends/CAP Ventures’ white paper entitled Environmental Update for the Hardware and Supplies Industry in Europe. The complete document is available immediately. To learn more about the report or to make a purchase, please contact Alison Hipp at , ext. 126 or .
 

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