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EU law to create ‘Electrical mountain’

March 3rd, 2002

If you throw away those old musical socks the kids gave you last Christmas you face a hefty fine under a planned new EU rule. An army of dustbin detectives will make sure that anything with an electrical circuit – which includes novelty socks and singing birthday cards – doesn’t get tossed out with the rubbish. … It is hoped the barmy EU rule – … – will stop old mobiles, computers, tools, hairdryers and even light bulbs and nasal hair removers being buried at dumps.
(Sunday People, 3 March 2002, p 12)

Householders face fines for throwing away unwanted electrical goods under an EU law passed yesterday.
(Daily Mail, 11 April 2002, p 33)

Local authorities could face “electronic mountains” of old washing machines, computers, toasters and clocks under an ultra-green recycling law passed by the European Parliament yesterday.
(The Daily Telegraph, 11 April 2002, p 15)


Electrical products account for four per cent of the total waste disposed of within the EU and constitute the fastest growing category of waste. At the moment more than 90% of these products are disposed of in landfills or incinerators without any pre-treatment. This process is not only harmful to the environment but incredibly wasteful because their components could be recycled into valuable resources.

The proposed directive places responsibility for the proper recycling and re-treatment of waste electrical and electronic equipment on producers. This provides a clear incentive for these producers to design more environmentally friendly products in the future. To minimise the impact of ‘historical waste’ on producers i.e. waste from products already on the market before the directive comes into force, this financing principle will be delayed for 5 years. Furthermore the deadline for Member States to implement the directive is 2006 giving more than sufficient preparation time for affected companies to take the necessary steps.

Since its inception EU environmental policy has always been based on the polluter-pays principle. The scenario whereby individual consumers are fined for disposing of ‘anything with an electrical circuit’ is highly unlikely. Under the directive Member States will have to organise the collection of waste electrical goods from private households, which will then be transferred to the producers. Alternatively consumers themselves can return the goods to the producer free of charge.

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Please note that all statements in all entries were correct on the date of publication given. However, older archived posts are not systematically updated in the light of later developments, for example changes to EU law.

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