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UK companies are "sitting on a WEEE timebomb"

01 November, 2003

UK companies are `sitting on a WEEE timebomb`

British companies could be forced out of business if they fail to prepare for impending European legislation on waste electrical and electronics equipment, and hazardous substances, an expert has warned.

The continuing failure of UK companies to get to grips with the actions needed to tackle the directives on WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) and ROHS (Restriction Of use on Hazardous Substances), could jeopardise the country`s future in the global market, said Dr Martin Gibson, programme director of the environmental support and advisory service, Envirowise.

"Most companies see these directives as an item of legislation that requires an environmental response, when, in fact, they also have serious financial, marketing, and design implications," Gibson told a London meeting. "Many firms believe it`s not relevant to them for some years to come, but that simply isn`t true.

"The legislation becomes law in nine months, and WEEE becomes effective 12 months later," he explained. "Companies who wait until then to take action will be far too late."

It is estimated that the WEEE legislation could cost the UK economy £455m a year, with ROHS adding a further £200m. This could add 1-2% to the cost of many products - and 3-4% to some larger or more complex products. Companies that fail to comply, could find their products banned from sale.

Many smaller electrical and electronics companies are struggling to survive on profit margins that are little more than the cost of these increases, Gibson added, and could find themselves "sitting on a timebomb that they are too late to respond to.

"The longer they delay before taking action," he continued, "the more costly it is going to be. Many companies, especially small ones, could go out of business, unless they start to take action now.

To raise awareness of these issues, two Government departments - the DTI and DEFRA - are sending a pair of guidance documents to the chief executive of every UK company in the electrical and electronics sector. The documents, which encourage the CEOs to take immediate action, will be followed in the New Year by an in-depth design guide.

Envirowise, which is funded by the DTI and DEFRA, is supporting the campaign via its Web site (, its helpline (0800 585794) and its visiting services.

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