Here in the UK, we throw away tonnes of waste every year and with a pressing need to reverse the adverse affect our waste production is having on the environment, it’s becoming increasingly important to recycle as much of that waste as possible. Whilst you may know how to deal with day to day materials like plastic, glass, metal and paper, some waste types are far more complex. WEEE or e-waste is an example of these complex materials and as a separate category of waste, has its own set of regulations for disposal.
From batteries and light bulbs to fridges and computers, electronic devices will inevitably reach the end of their useful life at some point, leaving them unusable and unrepairable. Plus, with technology developing at an astonishing rate, consumers are increasingly encouraged to replace their old devices with newer, faster and better units, meaning that the ‘old’ items are discarded. As with any redundant item, electronic equipment needs to be thrown away. Yet, the complex nature of e-waste means that it requires a different disposal approach in order to comply with regulations.
Surprisingly, a large proportion of e-waste can be recycled but this requires an expert hand to dismantle or destroy it responsibly. Some elements of electrical equipment may be hazardous, whilst others are extremely valuable and can be transformed into new products for a profit.
WEEE recycling may seem as complex as the products it encompasses, however, with a little bit of guidance and support from a specialist waste contractor, you’ll soon make sense of your e-waste and how to manage it. In this blog, we tell you everything you need to know about WEEE recycling and explain why working with a reputable waste management team is crucial for your business, but also for the planet.
WEEE is one of the fastest growing types of waste in Europe and is rising by around 3-5% each year. Here in the UK, we contribute around 2 million tonnes of e-waste to this statistic and, as we mentioned earlier, the materials are complex and potentially harmful. It is for this reason that e-waste is treated differently to other forms of waste.
Most electrical equipment contains chemicals, along with various other materials like metal, glass, plastics, precious metals, arsenic, lead and mercury. So, when these items are dumped in landfills and left to decompose, the decaying products cause dangerous toxins to leak into our air, earth and water systems. From here, the toxins can then enter the food chain and eventually be ingested by us; it’s clear to see just how important it is to handle e-waste responsibly.
Aside from the blatant environmental and health concerns, another reason that WEEE recycling is treated with extra care is because some of the elements of electronic devices can be worth a lot of money once recycled. They often contain various precious metals like gold, silver, palladium and copper, and many WEEE products can be recycled into expensive products like jewellery, or even transformed into new electrical equipment.
With this in mind, it’s evident that abiding by WEEE regulations is not only good for the environment but also good for the economy too. If you’re not sure as to what the regulations are, read on to learn about what the current government legislation on WEEE is here in the UK.
Currently, there are a strict set of regulations in place which hold business owners accountable for the e-waste they produce and as a result, aim to increase the recycling and re-use of WEEE items. However, it has taken a number of years for these regulations to become what they are today.
In 2003, the European Union set up the WEEE Directive, which came into force in the UK in 2006. Prior to these regulations, e-waste was treated as standard waste and no official effort was being made to recycle it. The 2006 regulations required producers and businesses to take financial responsibility for the impact of e-waste on the environment.
Aside from hefty fines for the irresponsible disposal of e-waste, one of the more proactive ways in which they did this was to establish collection schemes where consumers could return their WEEE free of charge. For example, if a business sells electrical equipment, they must provide a way for their customers to dispose of or replace their products, also known as a take-back service.
The initial 2006 regulations were revised in 2013 and became law in Britain in 2014. This new legislation expanded the items and materials covered by the original WEEE (which are broken down into 14 categories), meaning that more waste producers were responsible for more of their waste.
Since then, 2019 has seen yet another change to WEEE regulations, with the list of categories now referred to as ‘open scope’ rather than ‘closed scope’ as it was before. Essentially, this means that unless an electrical item is specifically exempted within a category, it will be assumed to be on the scope and is, by law, required to be recycled properly. This means that even more producers of e-waste will be held accountable if they don’t recycle properly.
As well as holding businesses accountable, WEEE regulations also set targets for EU countries. As it stands, the UK has generally met most of its targets, however, reports conducted by LetsRecycle.com speculated that Britain may struggle to meet its future target of 1.2 million tonnes- an increase of around 13,000 tonnes compared to 2018.
In order to meet our targets in the UK, businesses and homeowners alike must continue to recycle as many of their unusable electronics as possible. However, if we don’t know what items are considered as e-waste, how are we supposed to contribute to reducing Britain’s environmental footprint? Next, we identify exactly which items and materials fall under WEEE.
To make sure that your business complies with WEEE regulations, you’ll firstly need to work out whether your operation actually produces e-waste; with the new ‘open scope’ revision of the law, it’s extremely likely that this is the case.
Generally, WEEE refers to items that require an electrical current to function, or in simple terms, any equipment that has a plug or battery. The 14 categories we mentioned earlier that WEEE laws specifically refer to are as follows:
● Large household appliances, such as cookers, microwaves, washing machines and dishwashers.
● Small household appliances, such as vacuum cleaners, irons, toasters and clocks.
● IT and telecommunications equipment, such as computers, telephones and calculators.
● Consumer equipment, such as radios, musical instruments and cameras.
● Lighting equipment.
● Electrical tools.
● Toys, leisure and sports equipment, such as games consoles and treadmills.
● Medical equipment.
● Monitoring and Control equipment, such as thermostats and smoke alarms.
● Automatic dispensers, such as coffee machines and ATMs.
● Display equipment, such as TVs and monitors.
● Cooling equipment, such as refrigeration equipment.
● Gas discharge lamps.
● Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels.
If you produce any of the above types of waste, then you’ll need to take a proactive approach to abide by WEEE regulations. One of the best ways to do this is to work with a trusted WEEE disposal expert like ourselves here at Devon Contract Waste. Specialist waste disposal companies will ensure that your business complies when disposing of electronic items and essentially, will guarantee that your WEEE is handled properly and in an environmentally friendly way.
Further to this, it’s not just the environment that we’re here to protect- we also understand that discarding of electronic equipment could leave you feeling concerned about the safety of your business data and information. For example, if you throw away a computer that was in your office, it probably contains all sorts of sensitive information, from bank records and employee contracts to customer details and medical forms.
A professional company like ourselves will be well-versed in data destruction services and can ensure that your e-waste can’t be accessed for information theft. Using processes such as hard drive shredding, we ensure that your business is protected from the moment you dispose of an e-waste product, whilst also complying with WEEE regulations.
Overall, by choosing to partner with a trusted team of waste disposal experts, you can rest assured that you won’t face any fines for irresponsible e-waste disposal and also feel comfortable in the fact that your WEEE isn’t harming the environment.
Here at Devon Contract Waste, we’re dedicated to looking after the planet through professional, reliable and eco-friendly waste management. From chemical waste disposal to WEEE management, we’re the local experts when it comes to dealing with potentially dangerous and harmful waste. As well as our core services of mixed waste disposal and recycling, we’re also capable of safely handling hazardous materials such as e-waste, clinical waste and construction waste.
Through the careful handling of commercial rubbish, we’ll ensure that your business complies with all of the relevant regulations and avoids any negative impact on the environment. Our Zero to Landfill policy means that we’re committed to recycling as much waste as possible and ensure that none of the materials we collect ends up on toxic landfill sites. For the waste that we can’t recycle, we process it for Energy from Waste, offering a sustainable solution for businesses across the South West who want to do their bit for the environment.
If you’re interested in partnering with us to boost your business’ green credentials, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today.