Companies will face additional burdens in getting rid of obsolete computer hardware from next year under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive.
The directive obliges vendors and manufacturers to take back obsolete equipment on a one-for-one, like-for-like basis from August 2005.
For example, if a company buys one PC the vendor will have to accept one PC for recycling. But there is no requirement for them to deal with waste hardware beyond this.
Most organisations upgrade IT systems every three years, which is expected to create 315 million obsolete computers worldwide by 2004. Many companies have stockpiles of obsolete PCs, printers and monitors.
End user companies will be responsible for disposal of the waste that vendors will not take back.
Old kit can no longer be dumped in a skip, and companies will have to either obtain a waste management licence, or find a licensed company, and keep the necessary certificates of compliance.
"It is going to be an administrative headache for companies," warned Gartner analyst Meike Escherich. "I imagine the Department of Trade and Industry [DTI] will levy hefty fines on businesses that fail to comply."
According to printer company Brother, although the regulations come into force in August 2004 there are still too many key questions concerning responsibilities and liabilities left unanswered.
Even the latest proposals set out in a consultation document published at the end of November by the DTI do little to clear up many issues, according to Brother's marketing director Mike Dinsdale.
"We are disappointed by the current proposals because we were expecting clarification on a number of issues including borderline products, civic amenities for waste disposal and visible fees for historic waste," he told vnunet.com.
"We expected clarification but did not get it. When the directive comes into force there are going to be end users who will be quite horrified by what it requires them to do."
But companies could turn this to their advantage, as only two per cent of a product needs to be dumped in land-fill. The remaining 98 per cent can be recycled or reused.
Russell Flower, strategy director at IT services provider Synstar, suggested that the recycling and reuse of PCs can actually result in a small profit for an organisation.
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