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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 May, 2004, 19:51 GMT 20:51 UK
EU's new recycling laws looming
Discarded tv sets
Old tv sets will have to be sent for recycling
BBC Northern Ireland's environment correspondent Mike McKimm reflects on how membership of the EU radically affects the local environment.

Tucked into scruffy warehouses and old buildings across Northern Ireland are fridges - lots of them.

They are an icon to the fact that Europe effectively controls the environmental policy across the whole of the island.

Ironically, their disposal has led to a cross-border environmental initiative.

North and south will use the same firm to have the fridges removed and disposed of.

The reason the fridges are there is the decision by Europe to rid the atmosphere of harmful CFC gas used as a coolant.

It is known as the WEEE directive - waste from electrical and electronic equipment and anything that runs off electricity or batteries is to be saved from the bin

The fridges could not be scrapped or dumped in landfill.

Now the EC has decreed that as of next summer, all electrical goods must be recycled when their time is up.

It is known as the WEEE directive - waste from electrical and electronic equipment. Anything that runs off electricity or batteries is to be saved from the bin.

Obviously, being a European directive, it is not unique to Northern Ireland. But it is still a major problem.

With a population of just 1.7 million, it is a tiny but critical amount of material to be collected.

'Piloting schemes'

It is not enough, however, to make it a financially viable affair.

Add to that the fact that Northern Ireland is split up into 26 councils and the problem becomes a bureaucratic nightmare.

By next August, manufacturers will be obliged to start to collect their own used products from council sites as well as their own stores.

Electronic appliances recycling facility
More electronics recycling points will appear at council yards

They will then have to ship these back to a centre somewhere in the UK before they could be dealt with.

Already the Department of the Environment is piloting a couple of schemes to see just what is out there.

No-one is sure about the quantity to expect and it could be surprisingly large.

There is quite a disposable income in Northern Ireland and much of it goes on the latest electronics, freeing up the old model, often still performing perfectly, for the one-way trip to landfill.

Councils have just over 12 months to brace themselves.

So far there has been no outward declaration of an all-Ireland policy towards the problem.

Curiously, given that almost all the main manufacturers of electrical goods tend to be international companies, it would be the easiest thing to arrange.

But like the fridge mountain, it may take a hi-fi hill to focus minds.




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SEE ALSO:
Fridge mountain fire at yard
02 Jan 04  |  Manchester
Fridge depot fire inquiry
26 Dec 03  |  Manchester
Firm charged over scrap fridges
23 Apr 03  |  Manchester


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