Accustomed as we are to the madness of the European Union and its regulatory system, there is nevertheless something particularly insane about the latest development in the never-ending saga of the Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) directive.
According to the Telegraph business section today, the government has delayed it for the second time, having admitted that it had not completed the preparatory work and immediate implementation risked another debacle of "fridge mountain" proportions. One manufacturer went so far as to say the delay was necessary to avoid a "complete shambles".
Originally due to come into force in the UK this month, this puts the responsibility of disposing any electrical good - from washing machines to electrical toothbrushes - on retailers and producers. But, since the infrastructure was not in place to cope with an August introduction, the government moved the start date to January 2006. Yesterday, it moved it once again, this time to July 2006.
However, the particular insanity, like the sting in the tail, comes at the end. The delay in implementation means the government (i.e., us) will be on the receiving end of a fine from the EU, although no one can yet say how large it will be. And here is the rub. Even without the fantasmagorical bureaucracy that goes with this ill-considered Directive, the UK already exceeds the EU target (set by the self-same Directive) of collecting 4kg of electrical waste per person each year.
So, we abide by the spirit and not the letter, and get stung by a fine. Insane or what?