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Bring your old microwave with you while you shop around for a replacement? Unlikely. Carry your computer in your ha...
Bring your old microwave with you while you shop around for a replacement? Unlikely. Carry your computer in your handbag for an upgrade? Doubtful. Load your broken washing machine into the car and drive it to a recycling centre? Nonsense.

Unless local authorities and retailers start preparing more effectively for tough new EU rules [1] on recycling, which come into force next year, discarded electrical goods will continue to blight the capital's streets. To comply with the new regulations, many shops in London are to rely on their customers to bring household appliances back when they buy a new one. Boroughs are also expecting Londoners to dispose of these goods by driving to municipal waste tips.

A London Assembly environment committee report today [2] warns that this approach is unrealistic. It calls on more funds to be invested in doorstep and kerbside collections, especially because two out of five households in London do not have cars. Assembly members also urge manufacturers to act now and invest in reprocessing.

Only when these steps have been taken can there be real improvements in the disposal of the 170,000 tonnes of domestic goods thrown out each year in the capital. Other benefits to Londoners will be the creation of new jobs in recycling and a reduction in the amount of waste dumped in overburdened landfill sites.

Samantha Heath, chair of the environment committee, said: 'Nearly half of the capital's households do not own a car. Expecting us to haul old microwaves with us when we are shopping for a new one, or cart our vacuum cleaners to a recycling centre, which could be miles away, is useless.

'Londoners need this Directive to work in order to deliver jobs and increase recycling. The committee is looking to the government and electrical goods industry to wake up and invest now to ensure the capital will benefit.'


1. The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive aims to reduce the environmental impact of electrical and elect ronic equipment. The Directive encourages reuse and recycling and will influence the materials that are used in production of the goods and the techniques for reprocessing them. UK legislation for implementation must be in place by 13 August 2004 and the requirements on producers start in Spring 2005. UK government's original estimates for the cost of compliance with this directive are£150m -£320m.

2. The report, 'EU Directives on Waste', is available here.

3. The Greater London Authority is run by the mayor who, in turn, is held to account by the London Assembly.

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