Information about what is the WEEE Directive

- a summary, overview or tutorial giving information about the basics of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment, WEEE, Directive 2002/96/EC and 2003/108/EC

Each year, increasing amounts of electronic equipment are manufactured. However this has resulted in a growing level of discarded equipment once it has finished its useful life. For example, within the UK over a million tones of electrical and electronic goods are discarded each year. This is creating an ever increasing problem.

To address the problem of the growing level of waste in electrical and electronic equipment, in 2003, the EU adopted the WEEE Directive. The WEEE directive seeks to improve the way that waste in these products is managed. It encourages and sets criteria for the collection, treatment, recycling and recovery of WEEE. It covers household and non-household electrical and electronic equipment supplied to users such as local authorities, government agencies, hospitals, etc.

The WEEE directive is one of a series of what may be termed "producer responsibility" directives. These directives make producers of new equipment responsible for paying for the treatment and recycling of products at the end of their life. In this way they will also be designed to enable re-cycling to be easier and more cost effective. The WEEE Directive affects any business that manufactures, brands or imports electrical and electronic equipment as well as businesses that sell, store, treat or dismantle waste electrical and electronic equipment within the European Union (EU), and products that are sold have to show WEEE compliance. However it also affects the whole of the life of the product because it also affects businesses that have equipment to dispose of and the public who now have more opportunities to reuse, recycle and recover these products.

WEEE Directive Applicability

The WEEE Directive applies to a wide variety of electronic equipment. However to ensure that it is not applied to areas where it would not be viable a list of applicable areas is included within the directive. These include:

  • household appliances
  • IT and telecommunications equipment
  • electrical and electronic tools
  • toys, leisure and sports equipment
  • medical devices
  • audiovisual and lighting equipment
  • automatic dispensers

WEEE Directive aims

The WEEE Directive seeks to reduce the impact of waste equipment by encouraging those who manufacture, use and dispose of equipment to achieve this in the best possible manner. It shifts the responsibility firmly onto those who benefit from its manufacture in what ever way. This the WEEE Directive aims to:

  • reduce waste arising from electrical and electronic equipment (EEE)
  • make producers of EEE responsible for the environmental impact of their products, especially when they become waste
  • encourage separate collection and subsequent treatment, reuse, recovery, recycling and sound environmental disposal of EEE
  • improve the environmental performance of all those involved during the lifecycle of EEE

WEEE compliance

WEEE compliance is now necessary for applicable products being sold within the EU. In fact there are responsibilities for WEEE compliance on users, producers and distributors. The different responsibilities for WEEE compliance are summarised below:

  1. Equipment users:   It is necessary to:
    • If electrical and electronic equipment is used it is necessary to store, collect, treat, recycle and dispose of WEEE separately from other waste.
    • It is necessary to also obtain and keep proof that WEEE was given to a waste management company, and was treated and disposed of in an environmentally sound way.

  2. Equipment producers:   It is necessary to:
    • For WEEE compliance it is necessary to join a producer compliance scheme by 15 March 2007.
    • Again for WEEE compliance it is necessary to mark products with a crossed-out wheeled bin symbol and the unique producer identification mark, which can be obtained from the producer WEEE compliance scheme.
    • It is necessary to provide information to the producer compliance scheme every three months about the amount of equipment that has been placed on the market.
    • It is also necessary to make information available to operators of treatment and reprocessing facilities about new products that have been placed on the market after 1 April 2007. This helps with effective treatment, recycling and reuse.
    • Again for WEEE compliance it is necessary to provide the producer registration number to distributors. This confirms to them that they are purchasing electrical and electronic equipment from a registered producer in the UK.
    • Retain records for four years.

  3. Equipment distributors:   It is necessary to:
    • Provide information on the environmental impacts of electrical and electronic equipment and WEEE, reasons for separating WEEE from other waste, the meaning of the crossed-out wheeled bin symbol and how users can safely deposit WEEE for proper treatment and recycling free of charge. For WEEE compliance it is necessary to keep records of this information for four years.
    • Display information to customers on the benefits of take-back schemes.
    • Establish an in-store take-back scheme or join the distributor take-back scheme.

Although WEEE compliance may seem very onerous, it is necessary to have these regulations so that the system works. Today, in many countries, WEEE compliance is not an option, instead it is required to enable goods to be sold.

Summary

The WEEE Directive is now established and many areas are being implemented. The benefits of this will be seen in years to come when it enables products to be re-cycled more easily, and more cheaply. This will bring considerable benefits to the environment in which we live. As a result more people have to have a good knowledge and understand what is the WEEE directive.

Please note: This article contains simplified guidance on complex and changing legislation, and it does not constitute legal advice. While we endeavour to keep it accurate, we cannot be held liable for any errors or omissions. Compliance with the law remains the responsibility of the user. If there are any concerns over compliance, then professional advice should be sought.

By Ian Poole

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