The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive) came into force in January 2007 and aims to make firms that manufacture and supply electrical and electronic equipment legally responsible for its safe disposal.
The EU-wide legislation is governed by the "polluter pays" principle and requires IT and electronics manufacturers and importers to either act themselves to ensure that their products are recycled in line with environmental regulations or sign up to government-approved waste-handling schemes that manage WEEE collection and recycling.
The legislation bans waste electronic products from being sent to landfill or exported to developing countries where the harmful chemicals many products can pollute soil and water supplies.
Critics of the legislation have argued that the WEEE legislation "lacks teeth " and that there has been insufficient investment in enforcing the legislation - complaints that have been reinforced by the continued uncovering of broken IT equipment that has been illegally dumped in African countries.
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