One of the guiding principles of the WEEE directive states that 'member states shall give priority to the reuse of whole appliances', so it is a disappointing paradox that the reuse of IT equipment, could actually suffer from the new legislation, rather than be promoted by it. Rod Haddrell of Weee r it and TinDirect explains.

Current estimates put the amount of UK WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) being sent to landfill sites at between 1 and 2 million tonnes.

The role of legislation is to make things happen for the greater good, but that might not happen through market forces alone.

It is admirable that the directive intends to dramatically reduce the volume sent to landfills, but whilst wholly endorsing the good intentions, it is a great pity that the application of the directive means recycling has initially won out against reuse.

This new legislation means that producers cannot count the equipment that goes for reuse towards their recycling targets.

One of our services is to collect redundant or displaced product from site, ensure data security with a rigorous data-wiping program, and therefore promote reuse and ensure environmentally sound practice in advance of the legislation coming into force.

Only the products beyond economic repair are then sent for refining and recycling which involves shredding or fragmentation where the product is completely destroyed - and that's how it should be.

Moreover, the remarketing of the resulting product has often meant that the costs of these kinds of service have been partially or even completely covered, resulting in a 'net zero cost' approach.

This is a positive move as it allows organisations to achieve their corporate and social responsibility goals in a hassle free manner that also has a strong business case in its own right.

By contrast, the introduction of the new legislation means that manufacturers now have to join a Producer Compliance Scheme (PCS) and will be charged for this.

The real issue is that natural economic drivers have ensured for many years that a lot of IT equipment is refurbished and reused. The recognised aim of the legislation is to prevent WEEE going to landfill by outlawing the practice.

Paradoxically, as far as IT equipment is concerned, the legislation actually succeeds in providing a disincentive to reuse, by not allowing the reuse to be counted towards recycling targets until phase two of the directive, due in December 2008.

Is there any light at the end of the tunnel? To gain approval a PCS does need to demonstrate that it will prioritise reuse appropriately. Also, after 2008, the directive will begin to set targets on reuse.

Our glass is half full, and we intend to make the most of the legislation. If organisations are already sold on the idea that reuse is good then second phase compliance for them will be easier than for those that have to make the jump later on.

Rod Haddrell is managing director of Weee r it and TinDirect.