New recycling regulations are here, bringing changes to the way we dispose of our old PCs and peripherals. Here's what the WEEE Directive means for you.
Britain has an electrical junk problem. Two millions tonnes of the stuff are generated in this country every year, and consumer electronics and IT products are among the leading contributors to the pile.
Many of these products contain hazardous materials, such as cadmium, that require specialist treatment. Something needs to be done – and will be, on 1 July.
That's when the WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) Directive goes live. It's hoped that WEEE, a set of regulations with the primary goal of reducing the volume of monitors and motherboards sent to our landfills, will encourage the re-use of old components and more responsible waste disposal.
"Of electrical waste that was taken to the tip previously, only a small percentage was recycled," says Clare Snow, director of Icer (the Industry Council for Electronic Equipment Recycling). "Some was re-used if spotted before it was covered, but too much went into landfill. WEEE should change that.
"Before, people were turned away if they wanted to recycle, but now they have somewhere to go. And they can still put it in the wheelie bin."
Under the new regulations, responsibility for financing electrical waste passes to those that produce it. Retailers have an obligation to take back old equipment when customers buy something new.
In essence, the companies that profit from selling future electrical waste will pay for its disposal. They will no longer rely on local authorities and taxpayers.