I am angry.
Properly, volcanically, apoplectically furious, in fact. In the words of the peerless Dr Frasier Crane I am so angry "I could kick a puppy through an electric fan".
The cause for this dyspeptic state of mind? The Kafkaesque world of the UK's attempts at green legislation.
It recently emerged that yet more PCs and TVs from the UK have been uncovered in scrap yards in Ghana where they are broken up in unregulated conditions that cause considerable harm to both the workers and the local environment.
Sadly, this is not a new story, in fact it's almost as old as the electronics industry itself, but it was meant to become a thing of the past when, after several years of delays, the UK finally passed stringent eWaste legislation last year.
Covering the introduction of the WEEE directive at the time I recall being told by a spokesman for the Environment Agency that it would initially instigate a "light touch" enforcement regime that would give firms a year or so to get used to the legislation before it started dishing out fines for non compliance.
Then, around six months after WEEE was introduced, the Environment Agency got caught up in the Treasury's slashing of Defra's budget, at which point it seems light touch became lighter still, gossamer light in fact.
And what does this softly, softly approach to enforcement mean? It means that workers in African scrap yards are continuing to cough their lungs up, while UK firms are openly flouting eWaste rules and illegally exporting broken electronic equipment without the slightest fear of detection.
Investigating the news that Greenpeace had found UK public sector PCs and monitors were being illegally broken up in appalling conditions in Ghanaian scrap yards, my colleague on BusinessGreen.com's sister title Vnunet.com, Rosalie Marshall, put it to a spokesman at the Environment Agency that its policing mechanisms may be falling a little short of expectations.
The response? Well, everyone always wants larger budgets for this kind of thing and you have to appreciate that the legislation is pretty "complex".
Well, yes the WEEE directive is complex, not least because firms can legally export working machines for reuse - a practice that extends working machines' lives but also provides illegal operators with an ideal cover for exporting broken machines. But despite this problem proper enforcement still isn't really that challenging.
If you can find the machines in Africa, as Greenpeace has already managed, then you can usually work out where they were from using the data that is all to often readily retrievable. I'm guessing the hospitals, schools and businesses where the machines originated haven't single handedly exported the old machines, so find out who their eWaste contractors are and you've got a pretty good staring point for an investigation. It hardly takes an Inspector Morse; hell, it doesn't even take an Inspector Clouseau.
Sadly, I am jaded enough to find basic incompetence such as this little more than mildly infuriating. But what is truly enraging is that this absence of proper enforcement is a becoming a systemic feature of the UK's green regulations.
Light touch regulation that minimises paper work and unnecessary audits and inspections is all well and good, but laws without any form of enforcement aren't real laws at all, they are aspirations - or worse still they are jokes, like those bizarre historic laws left on the statute book that stop you from using a postage stamp upside down.
Imagine the media furore if the government had introduced recent legislation banning hunting or smoking in pubs with the words, "we'll give everyone a couple of years to get used to it and then we'll cut the budget of the people charged with enforcing it to a point where they are never that likely to catch anyone anyway".
This relaxed approach to policing of corporate rules has always been justified (in private at least) on the grounds that it is exactly what business leaders want.
But while this may be true of the old school, laissez faire corporate titans I'd argue that when it comes to environmental legislation the new breed of enlightened green execs take a very different view.
It is hard to imagine that, having invested millions in developing WEEE compliant take back schemes, high profile manufacturers such as HP and Dell really want to operate in a world where firms handling their eWaste face next to no threat of legal action if they do flout the rules. Moreover, I'm sure they would love to see those competitors that have not seen fit to take the issue of IT recycling as seriously caught out on occasions.
Moreover, those firms already preparing for the extension of the UK's carbon cap-and-trade scheme through the Carbon Reduction Commitment will hardly be delighted at what already looks like another anaemic enforcement regime that will struggle to keep tabs on those firms that bend the rules.
The government can talk up its "world-leading" climate change bill all it likes, but unless it gets serious about enforcement the news laws that will result will not be worth the paper they are written on.
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