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According to the European Union's (EU) Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, each manufacturer and importer of electrical appliances must finance the recycling of the electrical products it places on the market, beginning in August 2005. Presently, producers share recycling obligations based on current market share.

"For Electrolux and for the industry as a whole, estimates of the cost of complying with the WEEE Directive remain highly uncertain," noted Mr. Broberg, "Until collection systems are in place, the total volumes that will be collected in various markets can only be roughly estimated; treatment costs vary considerably between markets (by a factor of two to three within a given country); and minimum standards have not yet been established. Final requirements will be set when the Directive is transposed into national legislation."

According to Mr. Meli, the situation in Europe is "still very confused." Because only a few of the 25 member states have completed their approval process, the appliance industry is "facing a hard time in assessing their business plans for 2005." Even so, he said the organization of recycling systems for handling of the historic waste is "proceeding well," and most the countries should be ready by August 2005.

Mr. Scragg does not believe the WEEE Directive will have that much of an impact on the appliance industry, other than giving something back to the environment and adding value, both of which are benefits. "The cost of complying with this Directive will be passed straight through to consumers," he said. "In Europe, independent companies are being set up to manage waste electrical and electronic equipment.

We've already seen this starting in Norway. It's an industry issue, so I think the appliance industry in each country will work together and use these independent companies rather than doing it themselves. Most manufacturers do not want to go into the recycling business." Recent actions by OEMs seem to confirm Mr. Scragg's prediction.

In early November, four leading producers of electrical and electronic appliances"”Braun, Electrolux, HP, and Sony"”announced the first ever pan-European take-back and compliance scheme for WEEE. To administer the scheme, the companies have established the limited company ERP SAS, which is registered in Paris, France. Plans call for ERP to outsource all operational activities, including recycling, logistics, and the administrative work to manage the operational activities to at least two general contractors.

The scheme will initially focus on operations in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, and the UK, and the company says it will apply for any necessary permits as the legislation and procedures become clear in each individual market. "Our objective is to create the most cost efficient WEEE take back compliance scheme and to stimulate competition between WEEE take back systems in all EU countries," Hans Korfmacher, assigned president of the ERP company, said in a statement. Additional countries will be considered at a later stage.

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