27 November 2002 Plans by Brussels lawmakers to impose large fines on organisations that fail to properly dispose of their used IT equipment could force many companies out of business, it was claimed today.
Environmental campaigners have welcomed a European Commission proposal to crack down on waste electrical equipment, the fastest-growing category of municipal waste in the EU.
The new rules are set to be approved by European commissioners by March 2003, clearing the way for them to be legally adopted by individual member states by 2005.
Under the proposal, businesses would be required to responsibly dispose of waste products such as old computers, PC monitors and telecommunications equipment. Local authorities would be told to establish special collection services, and IT manufacturers would be encouraged to use only environmentally-friendly components in their products. Equipment manufacturers would also be compelled to dispose of computers they had sold.
But the plan has been criticised by business leaders and IT suppliers, which say the rules would place too heavy a burden on them.
Many legal experts sympathise with the opposition lobby’s arguments. “There are concerns that the cost of compliance will force many small and medium-sized enterprises out of business,” says Charlotte Hennessey, a lawyer with UK-based law firm Eversheds.
The EU commissioners have not yet agreed on the maximum penalties for non-compliance. But Hennessey expects that offending companies will be subject to heavy fines that will act as a deterrent and meet the costs of enforcing the new rules.
The EU identified the types of equipment covered by the proposal in its draft directive published earlier in 2002. They include mainframes, telephones, PCs, printers, copiers, printed circuit boards, cathode ray tubes, liquid crystal displays and external cables.
The green movement says that these and other types of electrical and electronic equipment contain many different toxic agents, including brominated flame retardants, cadmium, lead and mercury.