Since the WEEE Directive was introduced in 2004, businesses have been moving quickly to ensure they can meet the terms set out by this EC initiative. However up until now, there's been no real measure of consumer behaviour and how this impacts businesses achieving their e-waste targets. As a result, organisations face additional challenges in motivating and encouraging consumers to correctly recycling their electronic and electrical items.
To address this, while also raising consumer awareness of Dell's own free takeback and recycling programme, we decided to look into the general public's knowledge of e-waste recycling, examining the current rate of technology recycling across Europe and the barriers to driving take-up of initiatives similar to our own. The research, which we worked on with Research Now, covers the recycling habits of 5,000 consumers across the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
The findings which we released on June 22nd in the UK, and across Europe the following week, are not a complete shock but still uncover a few surprises. They reveal interesting gaps when it comes to electronics recycling depending on gender, age and nationality, with Germans proving the savviest (four in five regularly recycle electronics) compared to the more complacent British public (only one in two). They also identify a real lack of awareness when it comes to electronic manufacturers' recycling schemes and government initiatives such as the WEEE Directive, with the UK falling behind compared to much higher levels of consciousness in Spain.
As legislation at a European and national level continues to set out clear recycling targets for business and local governments, consumer co-operation is crucial in meeting these goals. The results of the study underline a need for more transparency regarding customer recycling programmes, processes for e-waste and the WEEE directive.
Ultimately the findings also tell us that more action is needed to tip the public's conscience in the right direction – take back and recycling programmes must become as common place and accessible as the current resources for throwing out old paper, plastics and glass.
The launch has created a lot of media interest and I encourage you to read through some of the highlights: it was the BBC's top news story; the British Computer Society picked up on the issue and many of the top environmental bloggers followed the findings. I'm hopeful that all of this coverage will raise awareness of the issue with the general public and encourage everyone to learn a bit more about the options available for technology recycling.