Electric and Electric Equipment (EEE) has been a major part of our lives for decades, providing our society with security, health and comfort. But with technological advancements showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon, combined with growing consumerism, it means more EEE goods are being produced at a rapid rate and therefore creating huge amounts of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) waste.
What is WEEE?
When electrical or electronic equipment comes to the end of its user’s life, it’s known as WEEE waste. More specifically, WEEE waste is classified as either non household or household waste that up to now, has not been recycled.
Equipment covered by WEEE Regulations
WEEE goods can fall under many of these popular categories:
- small household appliances, clocks and toasters
- Large household appliances, boilers and fridges
- IT and telecommunications equipment, e.g. computers and phones
- Consumer equipment, e.g. TVs and radios
- Electrical and electronic tools, e.g. drills, welding equipment and lawnmower
- Lighting equipment, e.g. fluorescent lamps
- Toys and leisure equipment slot machines and video games
- Medical devices, e.g. radiotherapy equipment and ventilators
- Monitoring instruments, e.g. thermostats and smoke detectors
The Perils of WEEE Waste
Every year in the UK, thousands of companies and households throw away 2 millions tonnes of WEEE products. Many of these products or items contain materials like plastic, ceramics, metals and glass. Due to the range of different materials, some of which are hazardous, it can create a number of environmental and health risks if disposed of incorrectly.
Many of these materials have been disposed of incorrectly in the past and sent to the landfill, where these toxic substances and heavy metals would seap in the groundwater. In fact, in many places over the world, especially India and China, the water and food in many places has become contaminated due incorrect disposal of waste.
Incineration is another popular method used to dispose of waste. It takes around 15% of the UK’s total controlled waste each year. As the waste is burned, dangerous gases are released into the atmosphere. There are different types of incineration plants in the UK, from the small ones used for hospital waste, to the large, mass burning plants. New legislation has helped to reduce this, but there are still many unnecessary.
Ultimately, this means the waste must be disposed of in a certain way. Either by a recycling a plan or a licensed environmentally operative. When disposed of correctly, many of these aforementioned elements are not harmful.
The European Directive
A first European Directive on WEEE was implemented in 2003 and became European law. The directive aimed to reduce the amount of WEEE waste that gets sent to landfills to reduce the hazardous material found in Electronic and Electrical Equipment (EEE).
In 2008, the European Commission (EC) proposed to revise the original directive to take on the rapidly increasing waste stream. The revised WEEE directive came into full effect at the beginning of 2014.
Now, regulations have been put in place for producers of non household WEEE to reuse, recycle, recover and treat electrical goods no longer needed with EU and UK legislation. This includes most UK businesses.
Users of Electrical and Electronic Equipment
If your business uses electrical and electronic equipment, there are certain responsibilities to be aware of when you dispose of them.
It’s not uncommon for the producers of EEE to be responsible for the cost when it comes to treating and recycling non household WEEE. That being said, business users may have to pay.
Complying with your duty of care includes:
- Using a registered waste carrier
- Storing waste equipment safely
- Keep a transfer not when waste leaves your site
Tips for buying new electrical equipment:
Before your business buys any equipment, consider these aspects
- Could you repair your existing unit?
- Do you really need to buy a new product?
- Could you buy refurbished equipment from another business?
- Can your existing device be upgraded?
If your business needs to buy new equipment, think about the following:
- Does it use resources efficiently?
- Has been designed for easy recycling?
- Does it have a low impact on the environment?
Equipment Purchased by Your Business
Any EEE your business purchased before August 2005 is classified as “historic waste”.
If you are replacing your old equipment, the producer of the new equipment you bring in to replace it, by law has to take the unwanted items away if you ask, even if they are not the original manufacturer.
If you are not replacing the equipment with anything new, you must make sure your WEEE is disposed of in the right manner and in compliance with the duty of care.
Your Waste Responsibilities
If you bought your EEE after August 2005, the waste is known as “new WEEE” or“non historic WEEE”. A bar underneath the crossed out wheelie bin symbol shows that the WEEE is post-2005. The producer of the EEE is responsible for financing the treatment, reprocessing and disposal unless the two parties agree on a different arrangement.
If you agree with a producer to make your own arrangements to deal with WEEE, you must make sure it is treated, recycled, recovered and disposed of correctly. This is where companies such as Envirowaste come in. Make sure you check out their WEEE guide for more information about WEEE.
When you buy new EEE you should keep the WEEE registration number of the equipment producer. Use this to contact the producer when you need to dispose of the products. The producer compliance scheme is responsible for the WEEE. The original producer can give you information on the take-back system available to you.
Today, our lives are ruled by technology. We go into frenzy the moment our phones or laptops run out of battery and as a consequence neglect the really important things such as safe electronic disposal. When the time comes to throw away your old office WEEE, make sure you follow the correct disposal methods.