Action 332: WEEE – understand your obligations

WEEE logoDate: 28 November
Action: 332
Cost of taking action: NIL


Everyone needs to think a little when disposing of old electrical and electronic items

WEEE stands for “Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment” and the WEEE regulations (in Europe, but many other countries have similar rules) are intended to ensure this is disposed of safely and efficiently.

If you are about to throw away any electrical item, today’s action is to think again – how should it be disposed of properly? First and foremost, it should not go into your general waste bin!

WEEE logo

What should you do?

The regulations contain specific responsibilities for businesses and other non-household users of electrical and electronic equipment on the disposal of electrical waste. As a household end user, you also have an important role to play in the recycling of electrical waste, even though the WEEE regulations do not place legal obligations on you.

You are encouraged to discard your WEEE separately from other waste at the end of its life. The regulations mean that retailers and distributors of electrical equipment must make it easy for you discard your WEEE.

Retailers and distributors are required to provide in-store take-back of old equipment when you purchase a replacement item, or alternatively direct you to a convenient WEEE collection point.

At council / municipal recycling centres you will generally find a drop off area dedicated to electrical equipment. Many councils will take large appliances from your home, although you may incur a charge for this.

Please, use the returns and local WEEE recycling facilities, don’t put electrical waste into the general bins!

Why is this important?

Ensuring that electrical equipment is disposed of properly helps in many ways.

Large household appliances currently make up about 40% of WEEE but there are large volumes of other equipment such as IT equipment, TVs (millions discarded each year), small household appliances, electrical tools, digital watches, electronic toys and medical devices.

Such items contain a wide variety of materials, eg 6% metal, glass, plastics, ceramics and precious metals. Some materials are hazardous (including arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury) and pose health risks that need to be adequately managed. For example, exposure to substances such as mercury released from fluorescent tubes, or lead and phosphorous as a result of breaking cathode ray tubes.

Adhering to WEEE regulations will:

  • reduce our overall carbon footprint as a result of re-using materials
  • massively reduce landfill volumes
  • prevent toxic materials from entering the environment
  • – by leaching in landfill
  • – or into the air by incineration
  • allow the recovery of precious and increasingly rare earth metals
  • reduce the health risks to waste disposal staff

Take action

Please, use the returns and local WEEE recycling facilities, don’t put electrical waste into the general bins!