Eurobit, the European computer manufacturers group, has warned the European Commission that different national rules on electronic waste and recycling could act as barriers to cross-border trade.
Eurobit estimates that over six million tons of electrical and electronic waste are produced annually and that this figure will grow by at least 50% by 2000. Ten percent of all electronic waste is composed of business machines and IT equipment, a figure that should double in the next decade, according to Eurobit.
Germany, Sweden and Austria are in the midst of drafting new IT waste legislation and Denmark, the Netherlands and France are negotiating voluntary agreements with the same objective. Fears are that legislation may force manufacturers to recycle a large proportion of the IT equipment they sell in certain European countries. This would favour local manufacturers, the group notes, since it would be easier and less costly for companies to collect used PCs from their home markets.
The group points out that many manufacturers already operate voluntary take-back programmes, and that these initiatives have made it technically possible to reuse, refurbish or recycle over 80% of the returned equipment. Pan-European rules for recycling computer-related waste are needed, according to the Frankfurt-based European Association of Manufacturers of Business Machines and Information Technology Industry (Eurobit).
"The funding of the collection of end-of-life equipment is the primary issue which must be addressed at European Union, national, regional and local levels," according to a Eurobit press statement. Eurobit also argues that responsibility for the recycling of IT equipment must be shared among manufacturers and importers as well as retailers, users, waste collectors, recyclers and public authorities.
Later this year the EC is scheduled to publish its initial conclusions and a possible plan of action on this issue, but Eurobit this week told the EC that it should move more rapidly.