There exists legislation throughout the world which has been developed to curb the amount of WEEE that ends up in places like a landfill. They influence the way both businesses and individuals have to handle their waste. For us in the UK, we have had both the WEEE Directive and WEEE Regulations. One of the biggest risks in carelessly throwing away WEEE is that it can leak hazardous containments into the environment.
WEEE can potentially hold hazardous substances and chemicals.
- Hazardous fluids such as ammonia, mercury, ink and toner, asbestos, ceramic fibers, lead and radioactive substances.
Other risks are attached to the handling of WEEE is that it can cause immediate damage to yourself and your surroundings if you don’t handle it properly.
These include, but aren’t limited to:
- Stain injuries due to WEEE’s potentially heavy and bulky size, electrical harm and risk of fire and explosions.
The Guardian reported that over 250 fires at tips throughout a 12-month period leading up to March 2020, were caused by batteries thrown in the general waste. With this, we can see that the mishandling of waste does not only have a long-term impact on the environment but also puts people’s lives at risk.
What do WEEE regulations mean for businesses?
From 2003 to 2006, companies in the UK that produce or distribute electrical items had to abide by the EU’s WEEE directive. This was replaced by the UK’s own WEEE Regulations in 2006 which were subsequently revised in 2013. It has been suggested that the Directive was replaced so forecasts on performances and waste reduction targets could become more flexible and realistic, as well as allowing WEEE to cover a wider range of items.
This page provides guidance for businesses surrounds the topic of WEEE.
Interestingly, these resources clearly display what types of companies come under the laws WEEE regulations and how they can abide by them.
WEEE producer definition: Distributors (including retailers) who make EEE available on the UK market, including by distance selling.
•If they place less than 5 tonnes of EEE on the UK market in a compliance year, they can register directly with their environmental regulator as a small producer.
•If they place more than 5 tonnes of EEE on the market, they must join a producer compliance scheme (PCS).
•The PCS takes on their obligations to finance the collection, treatment, recovery and environmentally sound disposal of household WEEE collected in the UK.
Distributor definition: Retailers with a sales area of EEE greater than 400 square metres must also accept small WEEE for free from private household customers at their retail site or close to it without the requirement to purchase new EEE.
•Offer free take-back on WEEE.
•Accept WEEE for free from customers supplied with like-for-like products, regardless of whether this is done in-store, online or by mail order.
•Retain a record of all WEEE taken back for at least four years.
•Provide customers access to written information on the service provided and what they should do with their WEEE.
One of the big implications for businesses is that they now have to be savvier with collecting and accepting old WEEE. If they cannot provide a collection service themselves there a few third-party services available with whom they can partner with.
This extends to both manufacturers and distributors of electrical items.
Rules around accepting old items are a little weak as some take-back schemes may only apply to specific scenarios where an item is taken back to a store because a ‘one-for-one item is purchased. So, if you purchased a laptop from a shop, then returned five years later to the same store to purchase a new laptop, it would be the store’s responsibility to take the old WEEE back. But what about if you find a better deal for a new laptop from a different store? The matter is complicated further when online retailers are thrown into the mix and historically, they have a track record of successfully dodging the responsibilities of the WEEE regulations.
So even with businesses having to become more responsible around the topic of electrical items they produce and distribute, you can still end up stuck with WEEE that you need to get rid of. We’ll now explore our range of affordable and convenient options for getting rid of WEEE.