The EU has announced new measures to prevent toxic substances to reach the environment. These substances are: lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyl’s (PBBs) and polybrominated biphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in electrical and electronic equipment.
As of July 1, 2005, these substances, if they are used in electrical and electronic equipment, must be disposed of in a controlled manner when their useful life comes to an end. All items, after the above date, must carry a new symbol of a crossed-out dustbin – signifying that they should not be disposed of in the usual way
Return free of charge
Manufacturers and distributors must take measurements for the disposal of their products in compliance with the new European rules. This means that there must be provisions so that the end-user can return his used power drill, mobile phone and bike dynamo/computer for dismantling. Return should be free of charge at the moment of return (a levy on the price when the customer buys his new appliance will do).
Producers must also take steps to design and produce these appliances in such a way that they are easier to dismantle. And they have to provide information on the toxic content of their products to the authority that is responsible for disposal.
New EU members
The new EU member states are not yet included in this directive. Products under these new rules are light bulbs, toys, leisure and sports equipment, large domestic appliances and lighting equipment. The list is very long and covers almost anything that is driven by electricity. To make selection easy, the EU has published a list of all appliances and an easy ‘decision tree’ to decide whether a product needs to be disposed of according to the new laws.
For suppliers (importers and producers alike) the snag is that all these appliances must be taken back from the end user. Simply put, this means that every shop will have to have a special bin to collect old power drills, quartz watches, electric shavers etc. These bins will have to be emptied by companies certified to handle toxic waste. The possibility of returning these appliances at the local council’s waste dump facilities is of course still open to the public, but in principle the seller must take care of the returned items.
For companies who make cycle computers there is a August 13, 2005 deadline to ensure that selling points have a storage facility for returned computers (even old ones, if the customer buys a new one on a like-for-like basis) and contact the organizations that govern WEEE waste disposal in the respective countries. Application forms will have to be completed before said date. The new rules will bring about extra administrative work and costs.
And it will still be in the hands of the end user to actually take the step to return the product, and not just open the bin and drop it in.