Research conducted by HP indicates that following the introduction of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment, or WEEE, directive in Europe, recycling costs in relation to the end product price for customers are lower than initially feared.
The review, earlier this year, found that in countries where there is a more competitive environment for electronics recycling providers, the take-back and recycling costs of end-of-life electronic equipment are lower. Costs are higher in countries where there is no competition with only one recycling provider for the IT industry to work with. Countries with a competitive marketplace for active take-back and recycling systems benefit from increases in product costs of a few euro cents.
However, the study also found a wide variation in the way producers are asked to pay for the take-back and recycling of electronic equipment from country to country. In Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden, producers such as HP are charged the actual take-back and recycling costs for products returned. In Austria and Spain, the cost to producers is by kilo sold, whereas Belgium and Switzerland are charged based on units sold.
It is now incumbent not only on manufacturers of IT equipment but also users to ensure the products they are using conform to regulations, and as much as possible can be recycled when the merchandise is disposed of. Governments, customers, and the public are becoming increasingly interested in the equipment contents and the proper disposal of used products. The regulatory requirements developed by the European Union include the WEEE, the Restriction of Hazardous Substances, Packaging Waste, and Batteries Directives, all of which aim to reduce environmental impacts of waste and improve recycling.
In addition to the regulatory aspects, organizations can adopt ISO 14001, a voluntary international standard, which defines the elements of an environmental management system. Following on from the success of the ISO9000 quality standards, the International Standards Organisation has developed a set of standards for environmental management, which are intended to embrace all the environmental issues found in organizations worldwide.
With the increasing concern for the environment, the IT industry will have to implement an increasing number of complex and costly environmental regulations and standards, some of them outlined above, which impact the way products are designed, manufactured, used, and disposed of. This is made more difficult by diverse national deployments of the regulations, each with different reporting and charging, which can make low-cost recycling and disposal a challenge. While the legislation can add significantly to internal overheads within the organization, the fears could be unfounded about high additional product costs.
Environmental issues must become part of company culture and high-level strategy. All stakeholders must play a role in having a ‘green mindset’ and in managing the proper end-of-life of products and resources.
Source: OpinionWire by Butler Group (www.butlergroup.com)