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February 10, 2005 -- Computer equipment gets "waste" high
Each year, UK businesses and households throw out more than one million ton of electrical and electronic goods, ranging from stereo units to computer terminals and printers.
This mountain of equipment represents a huge burden on the country's waste disposal system, and is estimated to be growing at up to eight per cent a year.
Robin Harper MSP, Green Parliamentary leader and MSP for Lothians, said that Scotland must speed up plans for a new European law on waste electrical goods or risk creating a new Scottish mountain - of TVs and computers.
The warning was issued today by Harper, who attended the launch of an innovative new partnership in the Lothians which aims to prevent computer equipment and other electronic materials being dumped in landfill sites. Scotland currently produces over 40,000 tonnes of such material every year, and when dumped it releases toxic pollutants into the environment.
A new law, the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, comes into force this week and sets a one year deadline for compliance. The Scottish Executive is still consulting on what to do about it. The Partnership launched in Dalkeith (called WEEEP (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Partnership)) is a glimmer of hope that Scotland may avoid a similar situation regarding waste fridges which previously resulted in vast quantities of fridges being stored in warehouses awaiting disposal.
Robin Harper said: "The new directive will find Scotland as unprepared-as-usual unless we do a lot more - WEEEP are setting a great example, and it is projects like this that industry will need to support when they become responsible for recycling their products at the end of their normal life cycle. The use of computers is more likely to increase than reduce in the near future, so of the three options, reduce, re-use, and recycle, the last two are especially important at present. I am particularly pleased by the opportunities for retraining and learning that this project provides."
The Partnership, Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Partnership (WEEEP), has been formed in Midlothian between Midlothian Advice Resource Centre (MARC), MagicWand, International Waste Management Group( IWMG ), and Moock Environmental Solutions, to provide an innovative recycling, reducing, re-using and IT Training project. Through combining forces MARC and MagicWand came up with the idea of recycling IT equipment and providing low cost systems and training to those living within the socially excluded areas of Midlothian.
Whatever the details of the new regulations, there will be key areas of concern. Ensuring the security of any data on the computer. The Data Protection Act requires that all companies demonstrate they have secured the data in discarded computers. A simple FDISK may not do.
Fortunately, it is relatively straightforward to ensure that the requirements of the law are met. All of these hard disks can be wiped with professional cleaning software. There is software that will be up to the MoD and above standard if data security is an issue.
How do you physically dispose of equipment without sending it to a landfill.
The WEEEP will firstly reduce the amount going into recycling.
Reuse any equipment that is working and teach the local community to fix these system. Richard Vivian, Project Co-coordinator of MARC said "The local community can get access to low cost equipment to help them up skill. Help children with homework and adults with flexible learning"
Robert Wilson, Partner of WEEEP said "By utilising obsolete computers we cam give them a new lease of life, and these PCs can keep going for the next few years. They can be made Internet and Broadband ready for people to use On-line learning and assist children with their home work"
Any non-operating systems will be sent for recycling, in Scotland, keeping jobs in Scotland. We do not want to send any of our equipment overseas for processing, as Scottish people loose out with employment and the Scottish economy will suffer. As seen on the BBC news, children in China are getting killed because of the poisonous fumes as they take off the components from the printed circuit boards. There lungs will be the first to go. In Scotland we can oversee the whole extraction process with no deaths.
Facts about electrical goods
- At least 1 million tonnes of electronic equipment including televisions, computers and hi-fi's is thrown away by householders and businesses in the UK every year. This figure continues to grow and it is estimated that it could be growing by as much as 80,000 tonnes a year.
- Hazardous components in electronic equipment are a major concern -? a typical desktop PC and monitor contains over 2kg of lead.
- It is estimated that over 5 million TV sets are discarded every year. As with computer monitors, traditional style TVs contain a high amount of lead.
About the new law
- The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive encourages and sets goals for collecting, treating, recycling and recovering old electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) such as TVs, videos, hi-fi, computers, TVs and digital cameras. Producers of these items will be responsible for paying the cost of electronic waste and meeting recycling targets. Any business that manufactures, brands, imports, sells, stores, and treats or dismantles electrical or electronic products within the EU will be affected. Waste sites that want to treat electronic equipment will require a permit and must meet standards set in the legislation. Although the WEEE Directive becomes part of UK law on Friday 13 August 2004, most of the requirements will not take effect until August 2005.
- The scope of the Directive is very broad and includes almost all electrical products in the average home. These include TVs, PCs, digital cameras, electric cookers, video recorders, HiFi, electrical toys, blenders, kettles, fridges, DVD players, power tools, printers, toasters, etc and similar products in schools, offices and commercial premises. Vending machines, monitoring and control equipment, and many medical devices are amongst the non-household products covered. The Directive does not include traditional light bulbs, batteries or house wiring.
- The Scottish Environment Protection Agency is recommending that people should:
- sell or give away unwanted but working items;
- donate repairable items to refurbishers for reuse;
- get them taken away by a retailer delivering a new product or make use of an in-store drop-off point (these tend to be limited to mobile phones at present);
- items beyond repair should be taken to the local civic amenity site or disposed of responsibly
About the new WEEE Partnership
The Partnership will offer an environmentally friendly solution for those looking to dispose of redundant electronic equipment, to comply with a new European Directive called the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive which comes into force this month.
The aim is to collect unwanted computer equipment, and use it to train local people from the community with a short PC training program that teaches participants how to fix a computer when it breaks down. When they have completed the course they will take the computer system they were working on home for their family to use.
For more information contact the MARC Press Office 0131 663 0400