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Friends of the Earth warned today that the refilling of printer cartridges could be wiped out unless the UK Government includes them in a new EU waste law which is due to be implemented this summer. As well as being bad for the environment, this would also lead to increased costs for businesses and consumers. The warning comes as Phil Willis MP (Harrogate and Knaresborough) hands in a 55,000 signature petition to Downing Street today (Wednesday) in support of the re-use of printer cartridges [1].

Printer cartridges contain chips which record the amount of ink left in them. But manufacturers are inserting a new type of 'killer chip' into the cartridges which means they cannot be reset when they are re-filled with ink. This will make re-filling impossible, and will be bad news for the environment as re-use is far better than the landfilling or recycling of empty cartridges. It will also be bad news for consumers because re-filled cartridges are much cheaper than buying new ones.

The problem could be resolved if the Government includes cartridges when it implements the EU Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, which must take place by 13th August 2004 [1].

Under Article 4 of the directive, equipment must not include any design features which prevent it from being re-used, unless there is a safety or environmental reason for doing so. But, the DTI currently defines printer cartridges as 'consumables', not `equipment'. Unless the Government changes its proposals, the re-use of printer cartridges could be wiped out. Consultation on the Directive ends at the end of the February.

Friends of the Earth Resources Campaigner Claire Wilton said:

"Re-filling cartridges is cheaper for consumers and better for the environment. The Government must support the re-use of printer cartridges by ensuring that they are covered by this new European waste directive. If it does not, this green industry industry will be wiped out."


[1] The WEEE directive says that "Member States shall bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive by 13 August 2004." The financing provisions & producer responsibility aspects have to be in place 30 months after the Directive comes into force i.e. August 2005. The latest consultation phase ends on 1st March.

[2] The petition has been organised by Cartridge World Limited, a company based in Mr Willis's constituency. The wording is: The DTI is considering passing legislation that will enable cartridge manufacturers to produce cartridges that cannot be refilled. If you wish to continue saving money and the environment please sign our petition, which will be presented to the House of Commons and in turn, assist the DTI in reaching the right decision. REFILL NOT LANDFILL.

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