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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 January 2007, 12:02 GMT
Gadget mountain's waste challenge
Gareth Jones
BBC Wales Business Editor

Computer mountain graphic
Outlawed - the European directive comes into force in July
It seems we can't get enough of electronic appliances, gadgets and gizmos.

In Cardiff's Queen Street this week, people were snapping up flat panel TVs, MP3 players, game consoles and the latest generation of mobile phones.

But not everyone I spoke to could tell me how they should dispose of their old models.

Several said they would just "throw them away."

But under a new European Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), we are all going to have to dispose of the old stuff more carefully.

"The amount of these things we're using in the home and in business is going up all the time," said Cardiff University's Cerys Ponting.

"But some of it does contain quite hazardous materials which, if they leach into the environment, could be toxic.

What we're doing here is cutting down on landfill use, on possibly toxic material entering the environment and the Rhondda's getting jobs out of it
Tyrone Griffiths, Waste Technique

"Many already know not to dump old electronic goods in landfill sites, but all of us - consumers and producers - will have to take the issue more seriously from this April and this July when the WEE Directive comes into force."

Most of the burden will fall on local authorities and the producers of the goods.

'Smashed up'

As consumers, we're being told to take all our electronic waste to the local civic amenity site where the council should provide us with a special skip. Retailers and manufacturers will also be responsible for taking back old products.

But while some have been complaining about the costs this legislation will bring, other businesses are capitalising on it.

Waste Technique at Penygraig, Rhondda, processes a mountain of old TVs, monitors and PCs - around 28,000 old sets every month - making it possibly the biggest such place in the UK.

The company refurbishes around 4,000 old computers alone a month.

TVs and monitors are harder to recycle because of the lead and other hazardous materials they contain.

But their tubes are cut up carefully and some of the glass is re-used.

Tyrone Griffiths, a director of the company, said: "The glass screens are smashed up and sent to Germany where they are made back into new ones.

"Half of the PCs we get are refurbished and often end up in the hands of charities. What we're doing here is cutting down on landfill use, on possibly toxic material entering the environment, and the Rhondda's getting jobs out of it.'

Fast-growing Waste Technique now employs 60 and is planning to take on another 35 workers this year.

But with our appetite for these consumer goods continuing to grow, experts believe we are still going to have our work cut out dealing with our electric and electronic waste.

"All of the items we recycle have to be broken down"

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