Producers of electrical goods will from July 2007 be required to meet the environmental costs of dealing with waste products under new rules published recently.

The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations are designed to encourage companies to consider the life cycle of their products. 'Electrical waste such as toasters, fridges and washing machines are a growing environmental problem here in the UK with over 2m tonnes being dumped in landfill last year alone,' Science Minister Malcolm Wicks said.

Under the WEEE Directive, Wicks said all companies who import, manufacture and rebrand electrical and electronic equipment will have to finance its treatment, recovery and environmentally safe disposal. The directive puts additional responsibility on those who produce the goods, and supports broader government initiatives for dealing with waste.

By 15 March 2007, producers will need to join an approved producer compliance scheme to ensure that they are able to comply with the directive from 1 July 2007.

'When I announced the clear implementation timetable in the summer it was to give business as much time as possible to prepare,' Wicks said. 'Some responsible producers are already factoring the cost of recycling their product into the design process and recognise that caring about what happens to the goods they sell needn’t cost the earth.'

The regulations will enable consumers to dispose of their electrical waste free of charge at accessible and appropriate places. Consumers will start to see changes from July 2007, with new signage at their local council refuse centres, in shops and on new electrical products.

In addition, the regulations will enable any operator of a designated collection facility (DCF) to arrange with a producer compliance scheme (PCS) to have the electrical waste deposited at their site taken away for treatment and recycling by that PCS, free of charge.

The new directive will also give distributors the choice of how to meet their obligations under the directive by either offering customers in-store take-back or joining the Distributor Take-back Scheme (DTS).

Valpak Retail WEEE Services was recently announced as the operator of the Distributor Take-back Scheme (DTS) funded by £10m from retailers. The scheme will establish a network of designated collection facilities where consumers can get rid of their electrical waste. The money will primarily be paid to local authorities to assist in the improvement of civic amenity sites so that electrical waste can be separately collected there.