Norway leads the way on electronic waste

While EU countries panic about whether they can meet the strict requirements of the looming WEEE directive the union's northern next door neighbour has been quietly getting on with it.

There has been much debate over whether it is realistic, or even possible, to implement the EU's Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directives.

The directives will require manufacturers to take responsibility for what they are producing and reuse or recycle components and waste from redundant devices.

But the Norwegians are already breaking their own targets, collecting and reprocessing over 90% of their electronic and electrical waste in an environmentally responsible manner last year.

This puts them at the top of the global league when it comes to the collection of EE waste.

Reports from the return systems for EE waste show that a total of 102,000 tons of EE waste was collected in Norway in 2004.

Dealers, importers and manufacturers have, along with local authorities, been instrumental in facilitating the high collection levels for such waste.

"This means that the goal of collecting 80 percent has been reached with a substantial margin, and that proper treatment is being secured for large quantities of hazardous substances via the return system for EE waste," said HÃ¥vard Holm, director general of the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority (SFT).

"The collection efforts are one of the most important means we have in the waste area."

The Norwegian experiment will have been welcomed by many importers and manufacturers, who will have been able to use their operations as a 'dry run' before the WEEE directives are adopted by its European neighbours.

Analysis of the figures shows wide variations in the return rates of different products.

Almost all household appliances, home and office computers and lighting equipment are returned, whereas electronic toys and mobile phones are far less likely to make it back to the manufacturers.

By Sam Bond



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