When does WEEE come into force in the UK?
The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations (2013) became law in the UK on 1 January 2014 and replaced the 2006 WEEE Regulations.
These regulations refer to the government's interpretation of EU Directive /19/EU. The purpose of the directive is to set targets for the collection, recovery and recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment across Europe and to divert large quantities of waste electrical equipment from landfills.
Legislation states that producers are responsible for their items when they sell to the market generating waste.
UK regulations require businesses to:
Minimize waste and promote reuse of its electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) products
Ensure proper disposal of scrap and meet scrap recovery and recycling goals
Design products by reducing material usage and enhancing reusability and recyclability
The UK will retain the current 14 EEE categories, and from 2019 electrical products must still be placed in the 14 EEEs, although one of the 14 categories will no longer be used to determine whether an electrical item is in scope.
Scope of UK WEEE obligations
Manufacture and sale of EEE under its own brand in the UK
Buy WEEE, then make changes to rename the product and resell to the UK market. (If the manufacturer's branding appears on the device, then they are the manufacturer)
Commercially import EEE into the UK
Set up outside the UK and supply WEEE directly to the UK market via distance sales (e.g. online, mail order or telephone)
Distributors (including retailers) offering EEE on the UK market (including distance selling).
A producer can also be a distributor, and often can be in the same industry. However, private individuals importing products are not responsible for compliance.
All distributors must take back WEEE free of charge
Whether ordering in store, online or by mail order, receive WEEE for free from customers who offer similar products
Keep records of all WEEE recovered for at least four years
Provide customers with written information about the services provided and how they should handle WEEE
Retailers with WEEE sales greater than 400 square meters must also accept small WEEE (less than 25cm on the longest side) private household customers at or near the retail location free of charge without purchasing a new EEE.
WEEE includes most products that have a plug or require batteries.
Ten WEEE categories are outlined in the regulations, namely:
Large household appliances such as refrigerators, cookers, microwave ovens, washing machines and dishwashers
Small household appliances such as vacuum cleaners, irons, toasters and clocks
IT and telecommunications equipment – such as personal computers, copying equipment, telephones and pocket calculators
Consumer equipment such as radios, televisions, hi-fi equipment, camcorders and advertising musical instruments
Lighting equipment such as straight and compact fluorescent tubes and high-intensity discharge lamps
Power and electronic tools – such as drills, saws and sewing machines, power lawn mowers
Toys, leisure and sports equipment such as electric trains, game consoles and treadmills
Medical equipment such as (uninfected) dialysis machines, analyzers, medical freezers and cardiology equipment
Monitoring and control equipment such as smoke detectors, thermostats and heat regulators
Automatic water dispensers, such as hot drink dispensers and cash dispensers
Handling of WEEE
Large household appliances (e.g. ovens, refrigerators, washing machines) currently account for more than 40% of WEEE, but there are also a large number of other devices such as IT equipment (mainly computers), TVs (over 2 million discarded annually), small household appliances (e.g. kettles) and hair dryers), power tools, digital watches, electronic toys and medical equipment.
Such items contain a variety of materials, for example, the average TV is 6% metal and 50% glass, while cookware is 89% metal and 6% glass. Other materials found include plastics, ceramics and precious metals.
Due to this complex mix of product types and materials, some of which are hazardous (including arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury and certain flame retardants), WEEE recycling presents many health risks that need to be properly managed. For example, exposure to substances released during processing (eg, fluorescent light tubes, lead, and phosphorous pentachloride, mercury released from ruptured cathode ray tubes).