What are WEEE Regulations and how they Impact Your Business

Published on
December 15, 2021
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Introduction: What are WEEE Regulations and the WEEE Directive for Business

What are WEEE Regulations? The EU WEEE Directive, or Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment Directive, was enacted in 2006 to help reduce the impact of end of life electronics on the environment.

If you manufacture, import, remarket, distribute or dispose of Electronic and Electrical Equipment, such as household appliances, I.T. or telecoms equipment and power tools, you must comply with the WEEE Regulations.

In this blog, we will discuss what the directive is, look at how it has changed over time, and take a deep dive into who it impacts and why it's important for businesses.

What Types of Electronic Waste Does the WEEE Directive Cover? The Ten WEEE Categories

We often get asked, "What Types of Electronic Waste Does the WEEE Directive Cover?" – this is challenging for many businesses to know, as Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment is a broad term, and you're not the first to ask what are WEEE items.

WEEE and E Waste Regulations For Business from RECOVAR
It is currently estimated that only 15-20% of WEEE is recycled.

What is covered by WEEE regulations can be broken down into the following ten categories:

  1. Large Household Appliances: Microwaves, Electric Radiators, Refrigerators, Freezers, Electric Stoves, Washing Machines etc. These appliances make up over 40% of WEEE in the U.K. (source).
  2. Small Household Appliances: Toaster, Scales, Irons, Sewing Machines, Coffee Machines, Hair Dryers, Electric Toothbrushes etc.
  3. I.T. and Telecoms Equipment: Printers, Laptops, PBX Phone Systems, MDF (Main Distributions Frames), Calculators etc.
  4. Consumer Equipment: Radio Sets, Video Cameras, Musical Equipment etc.
  5. Lighting Equipment: Fluorescent lamps (Compact or Straight), Luminaires for Fluorescent Lamps etc.
  6. Electrical and Electronic Tools (Except Large Stationary Industrial Tools): Spraying Equipment, Saws, Drills, Sanding Machines, Tools for Riveting or Welding etc.
  7. Toys, Leisure and Sports Equipment: Video Games, Sports Equipment with Electric Components, Hand-held Video Game Consoles (D.S., PSP, Nintendo Switch etc.), Electric Trains etc.
  8. Medical Equipment/Devices (Except Implanted and Infected Products): Analysers, Freezers, Radiotherapy Equipment, Cariology Equipment, Ventilators etc.
  9. Monitoring and Control Instruments: Thermostats, Smoke Alarms/Detectors etc.
  10. Automatic Dispensers: For Hot Drinks, Cans, Water Bottles, Money etc.

These categories help companies that manufacture, import, remarket, distribute, or dispose of EEE properly sort and categorise waste to ensure it gets dealt with properly. From 2014, WEEE also includes equipment powered by solar panels and batteries.

What Types of Electronic Waste Does the WEEE Regulations Not Cover?

The WEEE Directive does not cover the following equipment:

  • Filament light bulbs
  • Equipment where the primary power source doesn't come through mains, solar panels or a battery, such as a gas cooker
  • Items where electricity is not needed to fulfil its primary purpose, such as a birthday card that plays music when opened
  • Equipment that is exclusively designed to protect the U.K.'s national security or has specific military purposes
  • Equipment that has a voltage rating exceeding 1,500V D.C. or 1,000V A.C.
  • Any household light fittings

If something does not have a function by itself and are only used with another product, they are still classed as WEEE, including computer keyboards, charging cables, headphones, and antennas. However, WEEE regulations only apply to finished products, meaning components, spares, and sub-assemblies are most likely exempt.

How do I Know if My Company Needs to Comply with the WEEE Directive?

The European Union WEEE Directive was established to reduce electronic waste's impact on the environment by putting the responsibility on businesses to ensure EEE is appropriately reused, recycled, repurposed or resold.

The WEEE Directive applies to businesses in all 27 countries in the European Union that use EEE that operates up to 1,500V D.C. or 1,000V A.C. It also applies to all corporations which import products into E.U. countries, including companies that have their headquarters outside the E.U. It does not apply to private households or individuals who purchase electronic devices, but only if they are not acting on behalf of a business with a physical presence in Europe.

If you fall within the E.U. and your business does any of the following, you must comply with WEEE Regulations:

  1. Manufacture, import, or rebrand electrical or electronic equipment, i.e. you produce EEE. This includes reselling under your own or another brand.
  2. Distributing EEE: You're classed as a distributor if you're selling electronics for use, for example, e-commerce stores, retail outlets and wholesalers.
  3. Exporting EEE: If you ship electrical or electronic equipment to a different country for treatment, reuse or reprocessing, you must comply with the appropriate regulations - check out this webpage to find out more!
  4. Using EEE: If your business uses electronic or electrical equipment, you must dispose of it correctly once you no longer need it or it reaches its end of life - this applies to most businesses.
  5. Treating and Recycling EEE: You must have a PPC (Pollution Prevention and Control) Permit, waste management license or an exception if your business treats, recovers or recycles EEE. This applies to most Telecoms Asset Recovery and ITAD Companies.
  6. Refurbishing EEE: As with treating and recycling, if your business repairs or refurbishes waste electrical or electronic equipment, then you may also need a PPC, waste management license or exemption.

What Is The WEEE Legislation/Regulations 2013?

The WEEE regulations for business came into force in February 2003. According to the Environment Agency, waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is the fastest growing waste stream in the U.K. - these regulations limit the environmental damage this waste could cause.

What year were the WEEE regulations last updated? The EU WEEE Directive 2012 regulates the management of electrical and electronic waste and was the last time the legislation was updated.

When did the WEEE regulations introduce? The 2012 directive was introduced and applied in the U.K. in 2013. Schedule 2 of the Regulations provides categories of WEEE items, which we have detailed above.

Feel free to go to this link to see the complete Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2013 or read more about WEEE regulations for businesses below.

What Do The WEEE Regulations Mean For Businesses?

If you manufacture, import, remarket, distribute or dispose of Electronic and Electrical Equipment, such as household appliances, I.T. or telecoms equipment and power tools, you must comply with the WEEE Regulations.

This means that if you're a business that needs to get rid of redundant or end of life electrical and electrics equipment, you MUST comply with WEEE regulations. These regulations can be complicated and are found in detail on the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) website.

This is tricky, as most businesses don’t know much about adequately disposing of WEEE or have up to date records of their EEE as they are busy focussing on their business's operations. This is often the first barrier to becoming compliant and where RECOVAR comes in.

Once you have up to date records, you can then implement a strategy to reuse EEE within an organisation or call in a specialist to recover value for your redundant equipment. To find out more about how your business can get the most out of your WEEE, feel free to get in touch today!

Conclusion On WEEE Regulations For Businesses: Start Thinking About Your Organisation's Electronic Waste Today

In the mid-1990s, less than 10% of WEEE was adequately reused, recycled or resold, with over 90% landfilled, incinerated or recovered without pre-treatment (source). While there has been progress, we are still a long way from where we need to be.

Each year, e-waste costs the U.K. an estimated £370m in lost raw materials such as copper and gold and in 2019, the U.K. generated 23.9kg of e-waste per person - the 2nd highest per capita in the world (source).

Businesses need to begin thinking about e-waste and the 5rs of Waste Management (refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose and finally, recycle) - something we'll be covering in our next blog!

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