Plans to meet WEEE objectives 'unrealistic' says London Assembly

A report by the London Assembly environment committee has said that current plans to meet the objectives of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) are unrealistic.

At present, plans for meeting the WEEE objectives involve shops relying on customers returning appliances, or on customers transporting them to special sites.

Committee chair, Samantha Heath, said: "This is unrealistic, especially since nearly half of London's households do not own a car. Expecting us to haul old microwaves with us when we are shopping for a new one, or cart our vacuum cleaners to a recycling centre, which could be miles away, is useless."

The report pointed out that collection sites for discarded equipment at retail centres would also be unworkable since people rarely took their old equipment with them when they went shopping. Also, the report says, unlike the rest of the country, many electrical retailers in London have premises on congested high streets rather than in retail parks, so are unlikely to have space available for storage.

Instead, the report calls on London boroughs to establish a regular doorstep collection service for bulky goods. This would prevent electronic equipment accumulating outside property, and should reduce illegal dumping.

The committee even suggests that private firms should seize the chance to demonstrate corporate social responsibility by funding the collection and reprocessing systems themselves.

In addition, civic amenity sites would have to be upgraded to deal with WEEE waste. The committee estimates costs of reconfiguring a site to handle this waste at between £35,000 and £110,000 for capital costs and additional labour costs of between £10,000 and £20,000. Based on these figures, if all 39 sites were adapted, the total cost for London would be around £2 million.

However, the report points out that this situation also presents a "huge opportunity" and that recycling and refurbishing these goods could mean the creation of new jobs and less waste being dumped in landfill.

According to figures from London Remade, London is expected to generate at least 170,000 tonnes of electrical and electronic waste each year. This is enough to fill St Paul's Cathedral.

By David Hopkins



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