Headlines: November 14th, 2006



Local authorities are warning that dumped television sets could become a problem like ‘fridge mountains’ unless businesses come up with the money needed to pay for a new European law requiring electrical appliances to be recycled. Retailers have agreed to fund changes to council-run recycling centres so they are ready for the extra volume of waste but the Local Government Association fear this might not be enough.

From next July manufacturers and retailers will have to ensure that all electrical goods are recycled rather than being dumped in landfill sites. Under the WEEE directive, they will have to collect the appliances and arrange for them to be dismantled in an environmentally-friendly way. The LGA, though, says authorities are concerned that one-off payments of around 6,500 pounds for each recycling site currently being offered by retailers, will not pay for all the changes the centres will need. They are also worried by the lack of provision for the costs of running larger sites. Those are put at an estimated nine million pounds a year.

The LGA says councils are being put in an impossible position and that many may simply refuse to take part in the schemes, putting the success of the new law at risk. Paul Bettison, who chairs the Association’s Environment Board, said it was unacceptable that council taxpayers should be expected to foot the bill for a measure that businesses should be paying for. Retailers, he said, were holding the whole process to ransom. “We risk a situation similar to that of the ‘fridge mountains a few years ago unless more money is invested by business. Without councils’ involvement and their recycling centres there’s little chance of the new system working,” Councillor Bettison added.

The LGA estimates that more than a million tonnes of electrical items will have to be collected each year given that 5 million televisions, 2 million home computers and 8,000 tonnes of battery-operated or electrical toys are thrown away annually.

Councillor Bettison said the memory from a few years ago of thousands of fridges piling up was still fresh in many people’s minds. “From July next year, a whole range of electrical appliances will need to be recycled in a similar way. The fear is that unless councils are fully involved we could be risking a situation where hundreds of thousands of TVs, mobile phones and kettles end up being piled high once again,” he added.