Types of WEEE Waste
The level of waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE) has increased dramatically over the last twenty or thirty years. It’s has become one of the major problems in waste disposal because most of these appliances have a variety of components that can be recycled but need to be separated properly if they are going to be treated.
This has also led to the growth of an industry that is specifically devoted to getting the most back from our electrical waste. In some cases, facilities can recover as much as 80% from something like a fridge freezer.
WEEE disposal covers a wide range of products. The handling of this kind of waste is governed by legislation such as the EU WEEE directive which is designed to first prevent us creating so much waste and then getting us to implement the appropriate reuse, recycling and other recovery methods for products that have reached the end of their shelf life. WEEE products are split into 10 different categories:
- Large Household appliances: This includes appliances such as fridges and freezers, washers and cookers, clothe dryers and microwaves.
- Small household appliances: This includes vacuum cleaners, toasters, fryers, clocks, watches and electric toothbrushes.
- IT and telecommunications equipment: This includes computer mainframes, pcs, notebooks, printers, telephones, and answering machines.
- Consumer equipment: This includes radios and TVs, musical instruments, video cameras, hi-fis and audio amplifiers.
- Lighting equipment: This includes low pressure sodium lights, fluorescents and any other form of lighting except for filament lights.
- Electric and electronic tools: This includes drills, saws, sewing machines, welding equipment and lawn mowers. The category does not include large scale industrial tools.
- Toys, sports and leisure equipment: This includes video game consoles, sports equipment with an electric component, and coin slot machines.
- Medical devices: This includes medical equipment for radiology, cardiology and dialysis.
- Monitoring and control equipment: This includes smoke detectors, heat regulators and thermostats.
- Automatic dispensers: This includes machinery such as hot drink dispensers and money dispensers.
Most electrical equipment will fall into one of the above categories and will have to be disposed of in a particular way. Some of the components in these products are also deemed as hazardous waste. The implementation of the WEEE directive is not just about households and business disposing of their waste safely but also an attempt to get manufacturers to make products that are easier to recycle and have less hazardous components in them.
Household and Non-Household WEEE
Part of the directive for WEEE is designed to put the onus on producers for the collection and disposal of this kind of waste when it has reached the end of its life. This is separated into household and non-household WEEE waste:
Household: WEEE that comes from private households or businesses where the use of the electrical equipment is similar to that of a household. Producers must finance the cost of removal and disposal for their market share of the waste depending on which category it falls into.
Non-household: There is no market share here but the producer is directly responsible for the collection and disposal of the electrical product.
Householders do not assume any responsibility for the removal or disposal of the electrical waste. Part of this is to make producers more responsible for the products they make, ensuring that they are easier to recycle and cause less impact on the environment. It also reduces the risk of large electrical appliances ending up on fly tips.
Find out more about WEEE waste management.