Introduced in the UK in 2006, the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (or WEEE Directive, for short) was brought into effect as a means of addressing the amount of reclaimable electronics and electronic equipment being dumped into landfills each year – a million tonnes of the stuff, in fact!
Since this kind of equipment contains harmful heavy metals such as cadmium, mercury, and lead, it can of course end up doing some serious damage to the environment when it’s placed in landfill or incinerated.
The WEEE Directive, therefore, seeks to limit the environmental effects of improper disposal by sending old equipment to vetted and certified waste management firms. This ensures that at least 85% of the materials used in equipment of this kind are recycled.
With adherence to the WEEE Directive being mandatory for all businesses in the UK, getting up to speed with how you can comply, the obligations that fall under WEEE legislation, and the penalties for non-compliance is important. Luckily, that’s exactly what we’ll cover below.
What is WEEE Compliance?
WEEE compliance involves obligated manufacturers, sellers, re-branders, and importers of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) taking steps to comply with the requirements of WEEE regulations, which require businesses to:
- Minimise waste arising from electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) products by promoting their reuse.
- Ensure waste products are treated correctly and meet recovery and recycling targets for waste materials.
- Design products by reducing material use and enhancing reusability and recyclability.
Businesses who are obligated are known as producers – defined as businesses or entities placing a product sales reference onto a national market for the first time. The term covers, but is not limited to, the following:
- Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs)
- Distance sellers
- Brand owners
Producers are required to fulfil product compliance requirements as well as end-of-life management. This includes providing take-back, recycling and recovery solutions for both supply chain stakeholders and end-users of the goods.
How can businesses be WEEE Compliant?
Manufacturers and producers that place more than five tonnes of EEE onto the UK market must do the following:
- Join a WEEE compliance scheme within 28 days of placing EEE onto the UK market
- Complete annual or quarterly data submissions to report the amount of EEE placed onto the UK market
- Mark EEE with the crossed-out wheelie bin symbol and a producer identification mark, such as a brand name
- Finance the cost of the collection, treatment, recovery, and environmentally sound disposal of EEE (for B2C producers, this is done via a compliance scheme)
Producers that place five tonnes or less of EEE onto the UK market must:
- Register directly with the Environmental Agency within 28 days of placing EEE onto the UK market
- Complete an annual data submission to report the amount of EEE placed onto the UK market
- Ensure EEE is marked with the crossed-out wheelie bin symbol and a producer identification mark such as a brand name
Compliance schemes offer producers a standardised service level to apply established national and EU practices that relate to proper and efficient collection and recycling of WEEE products.
Joining a compliance scheme means producers of EEE products do not have to go about navigating regulation processes by themselves. Additionally, businesses can benefit from economies of scale in terms of operations and recycling costs.
Through contracts deals with recyclers, producers of EEE components and products open themselves up to all manner of discounts, which can decrease the overall costs that relate to regulation compliance responsibility.
What products and obligations fall under WEEE legislation?
If you’re wondering if your products fall under the scope of WEEE legislation, then it’s worth keeping in mind that WEEE regulation covers everything that requires an electric current, a battery, or solar energy to operate.
Electrical equipment is categorised into different groups:
Temperature exchange equipment
Fridges, freezers, air conditioning, and heating pumps.
Screens, monitors and equipment containing screens (>100cm²)
Monitors, TV sets, and tablets.
Fluorescent lamps, high-intensity discharge lamps, and pressure sodium lamps.
Dishwashers, ventilation systems, washing machines, ovens, electric cookers, vacuum cleaners, mower, copying equipment, large medical devices, and musical equipment.
All other types of electrical and electronic equipment smaller than 50cm in length or width such as HIFIs, hairdryers, blenders, mixers, electrical toys, drills, shavers, watches, smoke detectors, video cameras, thermostats, and devices with integrated photovoltaic panel.
Small IT and telecommunications equipment
All IT and telecom devices that are smaller than 50cm in length or width such as smartphones, routers, desktops, printers, wires, set-top boxes, GPS, and VHF radio.
Companies with producer responsibilities are required to do the following:
- Register to the National Registry with the appropriate authorities
- Declare at regular intervals any material placed on the market
- Make information on disposal of appliances available to end-users
- Organise the take-back and recycling of old appliances
- Finance take-back and recycling operations
- Report figures for take-back and recycling to the national authorities that have been collected and treated
What happens if I’m not compliant?
So, what is the cost of non-compliance? Failure to follow WEEE regulations can result in prosecution and a fine of up to £5,000 at a magistrates’ court, or an unlimited fine from a Crown Court.
Businesses that fail to comply also receive warning letters and formal cautions before being prosecuted.
Keep in mind, ignorance of the regulations is not accepted as a defence, and non-compliance through previous years can also be counted when enforcement actions are taken into consideration.
CDL is one of the UK’s leading IT disposal companies, working to help private and public businesses safely retire and recycle their outdated IT assets. To find out how we could help your business, or for more of the latest tech news and advice, visit our homepage or call our team today on 0333 060 2846.