The WEEE Directive (2012/19/EU) aims to reduce the amount of waste electrical and electronic equipment that ends up in landfill.
The directive may require changes throughout the Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE) product cycle, including improved product design to ease dismantling, recycling and reuse. In addition, the directive includes the provision of national WEEE collection points and processing systems, which allows consumers to put WEEE into a separate waste stream to other waste, resulting in it being processed, accounted for and reported to the national enforcement authority. Producers are expected to meet the cost of the collection and processing of WEEE. The implementation of a national WEEE scheme requires involvement from national and local government, EEE manufacturers, distributors, vendors and consumers. Most EEE is covered by the Directive but there are specific exclusions, for example, large scale industrial tools and products designed for military use.
To comply with WEEE regulations, producers must join a Producer Compliance Scheme, which provides a link between producers and environment agencies as well a number of services, which enables WEEE to be effectively and economically recycled or reused. New EEE placed on the market must be marked with certain information to allow for correct disposal by the end user. Also information must be made available to treatment facilities so new products can be efficiently reprocessed.
The European Parliament and EU Council have set the goal of reducing the amount of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) going to landfill and reducing the hazardous substance content of Electronic and Electrical Equipment (EEE). This is in light of the fact that WEEE is Europe's fastest growing waste stream - growing at three times the rate of other wastes.
With regard to WEEE, this goal should be achieved through a much more environmentally aware approach to all aspects of the EEE product cycle, including improved product design to allow for ease of dismantling (for recycling or re-use). However, more significantly the WEEE Directive stipulates that provision for comprehensive separate WEEE collection and processing systems must be created and used. These allow WEEE to be easily returned by consumers, then collected, transported and processed effectively and economically. The financing of such schemes falls mainly on the producers, although consumers will inevitably see the effects of the proposal in slightly raised product costs. Distinction is made between 'private households' and 'users other than private households', to ensure that no additional costs are incurred by private households when disposing of WEEE.
The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive now has an ‘open scope’ and applies to all electrical and electronic equipment which is dependent on electric current or electromagnetic fields in order to work properly, and equipment for the generation, transfer and measurement of such currents and fields, and designed for use with a voltage rating not exceeding 1000V for AC and 1500V DC, provided that the equipment concerned is not specifically exempted.
Equipment is classified into one of the following categories:
- Temperature exchange equipment
- Screens, monitors, and equipment containing screens having a surface greater than 100 cm2
- Large equipment (any external dimension more than 50 cm)
- Small equipment (no external dimension more than 50 cm)
- Small IT and telecommunication equipment (no external dimension more than 50 cm)
Click here for examples of products in each of the above categories.
Although the above list covers a wide range of products and in most cases it is clear whether a product falls within the scope or not, there are some “grey area” products that are hard to classify. Helpful guidance can be found from a variety of sources regarding product classification (see links section below), but it is practically impossible to obtain any answer from a governmental organisation that does not carry a caveat along the lines of “Any guidance given is to be taken only as guidance. Only a court can decide authoritatively on the specifics of each case and manufacturers/importers are advised to obtain legal advice for themselves”.
Certain equipment is excluded from the scope of the WEEE Directive:
- Equipment that is needed for the protection of the essential interests of the security of Member States, such as equipment specifically designed for military purposes;
- Equipment designed to be sent into space;
- Means of transport for persons or goods, excluding electric two-wheel vehicles which are not type-approved
- Medical devices and in vitro diagnostic medical devices that are expected to be infective prior to end of life, and active implantable medical devices;
- Equipment specifically designed solely for the purposes of research and development that is only made available on a business-to-business basis;
- Non-road mobile machinery made available exclusively for professional use;
- Large-scale stationary industrial tools;
- Large-scale fixed installations, except any equipment which is not specifically designed and installed as part of those installations;
- Filament bulbs;
- Equipment which is specifically designed and installed as part of another type of equipment that is excluded from or does not fall within the scope of this Directive, which can fulfil its function only if it is part of that equipment.
Basic operational structure
The dictates of the WEEE Directive require a serious level of thought, management, coordination and effort from all levels of the EEE chain, including national and local government, EEE manufacturers, distributors, vendors and the consumers. As a consequence, the mechanisms of the WEEE Directive in the real world are not simple.
Basically the WEEE Directive aims to create mechanisms for consumers to conveniently put their WEEE into a waste stream that will be collected seperately from other waste, taken to a reprocessing facility, processed and logged and all accounted for by a responsible third party so the cost of it all can be fairly apportioned to producers. The following sections describe briefly the salient points of some of the main features of the existing UK mechanism.
'Producers', 'Distributors', consumers (personal and business), local authorities or council waste management officers, operators of treatment, reprocessing or recovery facilities.
Producer Compliance Scheme (PCS)
A major cog in the WEEE machine is the concept of Producer Compliance Schemes. Producers of EEE in the UK must register with a PCS. The PCS is the interface between producers and the Environment Agencies. The services they provide are:
- Registering members with the Environment Agency
- Reporting the amounts and types of EEE put onto the market by its members
- Declaring compliance to the Environment Agency against its obligations for the collection, treatment, recycling and environmentally sound disposal of WEEE, arising from its members' sales
- Providing evidence to the appropriate Environment Agency in support of the above declarations
- Raising consumer awareness of the options available to them for the disposal of WEEE in an environmentally friendly and responsible manner
- They may also arrange the collection, treatment, recycling and environmentally sound disposal of WEEE, and, where appropriate, trade evidence with other PCSs to ensure that obligations are discharged.
Distributor Takeback Scheme (DTS), through Designated Collection Facilities (DCFs)
The first stage of the WEEE processing chain is collecting WEEE disposed of by consumers. A major method of achieving this in the UK is the national Distributor Takeback Scheme, which incorporates a network of Designated Collection Facilities. The DTS is currently operated by Valpak Retail WEEE Services and it exempts members from having to fulfil the in store take back requirement themselves when consumers purchase a new equivalent piece of EEE from them.
The DTS has three main operational objectives:
- To recruit members from Distributors within the UK market (including distance sellers) and to publish a public register of all members for inspection by consumers and the enforcement authorities
- To distribute funding to local authority controlled DCFs
- To compile and maintain a full list of all local authority, commercial or third sector operated DCFs.
Local Authorities also play a key role in the success of the current DTS, as all Local Authorities in the UK have signed up civic amenity sites to form a network of DCFs.
Approved Treatment Facilities (ATFs) and Accredited reprocessing facilities
Organisations wishing to undertake treatment of WEEE must obtain a waste management licence (or registered exemption) and must operate in accordance with the terms of that licence (or exemption) as an Authorised Treatment Facility. Separate organisations are required to be accredited reprocessors or accredited exporters for recycling and recovery. Evidence to demonstrate the processing of WEEE is in the form of evidence notes. These are in two parts; 1) Demonstrating the amount and type of WEEE that has reached an ATF for treatment, 2) demonstrating the amount and type of WEEE constituent material that has reached an accredited reprocessor or accredited exporter for recycling or recovery.
End of year settlement
The collection, treatment and accounting system for WEEE collected and dealt with must both demonstrate that the general national targets are met but also that each producer can demonstrate they have fulfilled their individual obligations. Because the WEEE will be collected and dealt with en-masse through national collective schemes, some collection sites and processing sites (and hence the manufacturers they are collecting for and processing on behalf of) will end up with surplus WEEE credit notes and some will end up with a deficit. A 'settlement period' has been built into the UK system to allow trading of these credit notes to ensure all parties concerned are fairly represented and meet their targets.
According to the WEEE Directive itself, “the responsibility and the financing of the management of historical waste should be shared by all existing producers in collective financing schemes to which all producers, existing on the market when the costs occur, contribute proportionately” i.e. producers are allowed to show consumers at the point of sale of a new product, costs they have incurred in relation to recycling historic WEEE. However, if this cost is shown, it must not exceed the costs incurred in collecting, treating and recycling a similar WEEE product.
Producer compliance, obligations and marking requirements
Many groups in the EEE chain are affected by the WEEE Directive, but for the purposes of this web page only the requirements of the producers are covered, as these are the clients we deal most frequently with when assisting with WEEE Directive enquiries.
In the WEEE Directive a Producer is defined as: Any person who, irrespective of the selling technique used:
- manufactures and sells EEE under his own brand
- resells under his own brand equipment produced by other suppliers
- imports or exports EEE on a professional basis into a Member State
- distance-sells into a Member State from elsewhere
With regard to the main aim of the directives - to reduce the environmental impact of WEEE - the underlying sentiment of the directives is 'the producer should pay'. Specifically, this refers to the funding of collection, transportation, sorting and recycling or re-use of WEEE, along with the associated public relations and consultancy costs. The directive states that producers may undertake these tasks individually or become part of collaborative schemes with proportionate responsibility.
Under the WEEE Directive, the producer has the following obligations:
- Marking of EEE - All EEE placed on the market must be marked with specific information to assist with separate collection when it is discarded as waste (the crossed out wheelie bin symbol), a producer identification and that the product was placed on the market after 13 August 2005. The latter marking can be achieved by marking the product with the date it was placed on the market or by putting the ‘black line’ under the crossed out wheelie bin symbol.
- Join a producer compliance scheme - Each producer must join a PCS. Through this membership the producers will finance the collection, treatment, recycling and environmentally sound disposal of separately collected WEEE. The PCS will, on the producer's behalf, register each of its members and will report information and declare compliance with obligations. It may also assist with clearance, treatment and reprocessing of WEEE, and trade evidence on their behalf.
- Information to assist treatment and recycling - Producers must make information available to treatment facilities and reprocessors on each new type of EEE they put onto the UK market within one year, to assist them with reprocessing and handling the WEEE.
- Provision of producer registration details - All producers must register with the relevant Environment Agency. This will generally be one of the duties performed by the PCS on the producer's behalf. The producer registration number must be provided to distributors when they sell EEE.
- Report level of sales of products to their PCS so the PCS can collate quarterly and annual data for national reporting purposes.
- Records of direct selling abroad - If a producer is based in the UK and selling direct to end users in other member states, records must be maintained of these sales including how the obligations in other member states have been complied with, for a period of six years.
Commencing from the 1st January 2020, the reporting format used by producers when registering is being harmonised, so that the same data structure and format will be required when registering in all Member States.
WEEE Directive in other Member States
It is important to note that the WEEE Directive not only stipulates a minimum requirement for Member States to achieve, but it also does not specify exactly how the aims are to be achieved. Thus, each Member State has its own regulations and schemes to implement the WEEE Directive, however it has decided is easiest and most appropriate.
The main impact this has on producers is that they currently have to register with the national body (or join relevant schemes, as appropriate) in each Member State they sell to i.e. just joining the scheme of the Member State the producer is based in is not sufficient.
As the WEEE setup in each Member State is different, it is not possible to detail everything on this web site. For assistance regarding WEEE obligations in Member States other than the UK, please contact us at Conformance to discuss your needs.
Directive 2012/19/EU, of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 4 July 2012, on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).
Directive 2002/96/EC, amended by Directive 2003/108/EC has been repealed.
The UK Regulations implementing the new WEEE Directive (2013 regulations) are The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2013.