Electrical equipment is the fastest growing category of rubbish across the European Union (EU), with around 20kg per person produced every year. The UK alone now generates around 1m tonnes of waste electrical equipment annually. The long-heralded Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations came into force on 2 January 2007, implementing the provisions of the EU WEEE Directive in the UK.
The Directive introduces producer responsibility for WEEE. It is intended to persuade producers to design more eco-friendly products which can be more effectively re-used and recycled to reduce future levels of waste. Under the proposals, manufacturers and importers will be responsible for ensuring that they plan for both their new and existing products to be recycled rather than dumped. Producers will have to finance treatment and recycling/recovery of separately collected WEEE in the UK to specified treatment standards and recycling/recovery targets. Retailers will have an obligation to offer take-back services to householders.
The WEEE Directive covers a huge spectrum of waste products including:
- IT and telecommunications equipment;
- audiovisual and lighting equipment;
- electrical and electronic tools;
- medical devices;
- automatic dispensers;
- household appliances; and
- toys, leisure and sports equipment.
The key measures introduced are:
- a national Distributor Take-back Scheme which will establish a network of Designated Collection Facilities enabling consumers to return their used items for recycling or reuse;
- obligatory registration for producers through approved compliance schemes;
- authorised Treatment Facilities, which will process WEEE and provide evidence to producers of the amount of WEEE received for treatment;
- accredited reprocessing/recycling facilities which will provide evidence of reprocessing to producers;
- an end-of-year settlement to ensure producers are able to meet their obligations via an ‘exchange system’; and
- a voluntary approach for producers to show the cost of handling historical WEEE.
The key dates for producers are as follows:
- 15 March 2007 – producers must join an approved producer compliance scheme;
- 1 April 2007 – producers must ensure that all electrical and electronic equipment placed on the market after this date is appropriately marked; and
- 1 July 2007 – the start of the full producer compliance scheme.