Recognising its responsibilities under the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Directive, the Department of Trade and Industry yesterday launched a set of proposals to help cut down on the level of household and industrial waste, while giving consumers the chance to have their say.

One of the proposals is the creation of a national 'clearing house', funded by manufacturers, which will provide free collection of unwanted electrical equipment from local waste management sites and special pickup points around the UK. The goods will be taken for treatment, recovery and recycling.

But manufacturers' responsibilities don't end there; they will also be required to reclaim 4kg of waste per person per household per year from 31 August next year. Retailers, too, have obligations under the directive which demands shops provide return facilities for customers replacing obsolete products.

It is not yet clear how the money spent meeting WEEE's requirements will be recouped - many firms are likely to opt for higher purchase prices and some will raise the costs of extended warranties. But whatever the method, we're willing to bet it will be consumers' wallets that feel the effects.

"These proposals will bring enormous environmental benefits and will contribute towards the development of more sustainable products," said energy and e-commerce minister Stephen Timms.

The proposals mark the launch of a consultation into the enforcement of the directive, which will remain open until 1 March 04.

Related links:
DTI consultation