A poll of IT managers found that many have not heard about the legislation and those who have are ignorant of how it could affect them.
Only 50% of the IT managers polled by Datamonitor were aware of how the new legislation will affect their responsibilities to recycle IT hardware. This included the EC's Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment Directive, which is due to come into force in August 2005.
About 75% of IT managers believe it costs less than £50 to dispose of a PC, and 50% said £25. Analyst firm Gartner calculated that the cost of disposal varies between £50 and £80 per PC.
Of those polled, 45% outsource the disposal of their end-of-life IT assets to a specialist company, with 54% of large corporations and 63% of mid-sized firms doing the same. Thirty-three per cent give at least a portion of their equipment to charity, despite data security risks.
Malcolm Plunkett, asset management director at Lombard GATX Technology, which commissioned the report, said, "All our experience working on disposal projects supports analyst assertions of high costs for decommissioning, data erasure, secure shipment, remarketing and recycling plus tracking and administration."
The WEEE Directive will require companies to demonstrate asset tracking for all electronic equipment and compliance with the directive or face fines, said Plunkett. "The penalties will need to be stiff to make people take notice. We have been talking to companies about WEEE since 1999 and I am amazed that so many are not aware of it."
Datamonitor polled 150 firms from across the UK during July and August 2004. Of the sample, 45% had 500 to 5,000 PCs.
The study found that asset management techniques are still low-tech, with 60% of firms managing their IT assets using paper registers or spreadsheets. Plunkett said, "Despite years of debate about the total cost of ownership of IT assets, it was surprising to see that few firms used asset management software tools."
The Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment Directive comes into force in August 2005. It promotes reuse and recycling of IT equipment, although member states set compliance details.
Firms that cannot demonstrate compliance are likely to face financial penalties.