Legislation and WEEE Waste
There is some substantial regulation surrounding the handling of WEEE waste and much of it comes out of EU directives. The original UK legislation was introduced in 2006 which put the prevention, recovery, reuse and recycling of electric and electronic waste firmly on the agenda for everyone along the supply chain. These waste laws apply to any company that is involved in the manufacture, importing, rebranding, disposal and distribution of many forms of electronic equipment.
The first legislation was recently updated and the Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations 2013 came into effect in the UK in 2014. When you think that we produce in the region of 2 million tonnes of WEEE waste each year, then you begin to understand the value of having strong legislation for dealing with it at all levels. Many electrical products contain components that can be recycled. There are also certain components that are considered hazardous waste and have extra rules for being dealt with.
Products that WEEE Legislation Applies to
There are a wide range of electrical products that come under the reach of the WEEE regulations including fridges and freezers, TVs and computers and household lights and fire alarms.
Find a full list of the types of WEEE waste here.
Products that WEEE Legislation Does Not Apply to
Not all products with an electric component are considered as WEEE. This includes equipment such as gas cookers where electricity is not the main power source or ones such as musical birthday cards where the electrical component is not needed for it to perform its primary function. Other exemptions are some light fixtures and filament lightbulbs, implanted medical treatments and high voltage equipment.
Producers of WEEE
According to the regulations, producers of WEEE, including manufacturers, must be part of an approved compliance scheme. They are responsible for their market share of any product and must have arrangements in place to collect, treat, recover and dispose of it in an environmentally friendly manner.
For producers this can be quite complicated legislation and it involves labelling products appropriately, providing information about treatment and processing, and keeping records. Producers also have a duty to develop products in the future which are easier to repurpose and recycle and have less hazardous components.
Distributors of WEEE
There is also an onus on distributors of WEEE including allowing customers to return their waste products on a like for like basis. For example, if you sell a washing machine a distributor must offer a pickup service for the old device at the same time. While distributors can charge businesses, they must offer this take back service free of charge to households.
Users and WEEE
For households, the collection and disposal of WEEE should be handled as a like for like removal through a combination of the distributor and the producer, completely free. For businesses, of course, it is slightly more complicated and there may be a price to pay for removal and disposal. Businesses and organisations also have the usual duty of care when it comes to the waste they produce, including:
- Making sure the WEEE waste they produce is stored properly.
- Employing the services of a registered WEEE waste disposal service.
- Making sure a waste transfer note is provided and kept on record when WEEE is removed.
Businesses and organisations should also make better decisions when it comes to purchasing new equipment. That means asking whether they really need new equipment or whether a refurbished or repaired unit might be more sustainable and better for the environment.
Dealing with WEEE
If you are involved in the repair or reuse of WEEE then you will require a pollution prevention and control permit (PPC) as well as an operating licence and any exemption certificate for the waste you deal with. If your business treats WEEE including recycling parts and disposal you have to have the following in place:
- Waste management licence, PPC and exemption certificate if applicable.
- You must be classed as an ATF or Authorised Treatment Facility, or an approved ATF.
- Use the best available techniques to treat and dispose of WEEE.
As with other forms of waste, WEEE cannot be exported or moved to another county unless there is a realistic expectation that it can be recycled or reused. This means that WEEE cannot be exported to areas such as landfill in another part of the country.
Hazardous Waste and WEEE
There are certain components in some WEEE that is considered hazardous. This might include fluorescent lights which have low levels of mercury in them, nickel cadmium batteries or cathode ray tubes in old televisions. Waste disposal services have to store this waste separately and make sure that it is disposed of safely.
Find out more about hazardous waste here.