UK SMEs still unaware of IT waste directive

Nine in ten UK small and medium-sized businesses are still unaware of the European Union’s Weee Directive for encouraging the...

Nine in ten UK small and medium-sized businesses are still unaware of the European Union’s Weee Directive for encouraging the safe disposal of IT waste, a survey claimed.

Only 11% of UK firms are aware of the directive, which became European Law in February, a survey by electronic recycling and refurbishment firm MIREC Asset Management found.

Although Weee is designed to place the burden of responsibility for disposal with the equipment producers, the finer points of the legislation are still being hammered out. One important grey area relates to who will be responsible for the disposal of historical waste.

According to the survey, only 35% of UK businesses are disposing of their old ICT equipment in a manner that complies with the directive, the survey suggests, while a similar proportion of SMEs admitted to dumping unwanted electronic and electrical equipment.

On the positive side, the research identified a growing trend among companies adopting resale and reuse policies, with one in four (24%) businesses recycling equipment, compared with 15% in last year’s survey.

Almost half (47%) said they resell their old equipment or pass on for reuse.

The survey polled staff responsible for IT procurement in 100 UK enterprises with up to 5,000 PCs.

Eva Milroy, marketing manager at MIREC, warned users that a proposed amendment to article nine of the directive could put the onus on the end user for meeting the costs of recycling or refurbishing old kit if they do not buy replacements.

“If the amendment is passed it’ll have a serious impact on UK businesses who try to dispose of old kit,” she said. “There are lots of unanswered questions here.”

Milroy also cast doubt on the existence of an infrastructure in the UK capable of handling recycling on the scale necessary to support the directive.

What happens to the ICT equipment you discard?

It is thrown out 16%

It goes to landfill 2.25%

Stored it for later 11.25%

Dumped total 29.5%

To staff, family and friends 22.25%

Charities/not-for profit organisations 13.75%

Sell/auction them to SMEs 4%

Returned to leasing company 6.5%

Resold/Reused Total 46.5%

Use a council collection scheme 5%

Use a disposal agent 19%

Recycled total 24%

Who do you feel should take the lead for implementation of environmentally responsible ICT disposal laws?

Manufacturers 34%

Channel resellers 3%

Trade organisations 0%

User company 25%

Government 38%

Read more on IT for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME)