On this page, you can find out more about what WEEE is and what regulations businesses need to follow to ensure you dispose of your electrical and electronic waste correctly.
- What does WEEE stand for?
- What is classed as WEEE waste?
- Is WEEE classed as hazardous waste?
- How can my business become WEEE certified?
- How do I find out my SIC code for WEEE?
- Is the WEEE directive a law?
- What are the aims of the WEEE Directive?
- What are WEEE approved producer compliance schemes?
- Who has to comply with the WEEE Directive?
- How does WEEE recycling collection work?
- What recycling centres accept WEEE?
- How do I dispose of WEEE that contains confidential data?
- How much does WEEE disposal cost?
- WEEE services from Russell Richardson
What does WEEE stand for?
WEEE stands for waste electrical and electronic equipment.
What is classed as WEEE waste?
You can easily identify WEEE by looking for the WEEE symbol on an electrical or electronic product.
You’ll find this symbol on the majority of items which require a battery or plug to work, or items which can function with more than one product e.g. cables, headphones and computer keyboards. You can find out more about what accessories are classed as WEEE here.
There are ten WEEE categories outlined by the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations:
- Large household appliances e.g. fridges, freezers, cookers, washing machines, dryers and dishwashers
- Small household appliances e.g. toasters, vacuum cleaners, blenders and electric grills
- IT and telecommunications equipment e.g. PCs, laptops, printers, scanners and telephones
- Consumer equipment e.g. radios, digital cameras, mobile phones, televisions, hi-fi systems and musical instruments
- Lighting equipment e.g. lightbulbs and tubes, including LEDs and CFLs
- Electrical and electronic tools e.g. drills, screwdrivers, sewing machines and electric lawnmowers
- Toys, leisure and sports equipment e.g. games consoles, electronic gym equipment, mobile phones, activity trackers, electric train sets and headphones
- Medical devices e.g. blood pressure monitors, defibrillators, analysers and medical freezers
- Monitoring and control equipment e.g. smoke detectors and heating regulators
- Automatic dispensers e.g. hot drinks dispensers, automatic soap dispensers and ATMs
Is WEEE classed as hazardous waste?
Hazardous waste refers to anything that’s considered harmful to humans or the environment. Not all WEEE waste is hazardous—it’s only classed as hazardous if it contains certain chemicals or metals.
For example, fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent lightbulbs are classed as hazardous waste as they contain mercury, whereas LED tubes and bulbs aren’t because they don’t contain any hazardous chemicals.
However, the majority of electronic and electrical devices, including laptops, computers, monitors and photocopiers, contain some form of hazardous material.
There’s a full list of what WEEE is classed as hazardous waste here.
How can my business become WEEE certified?
Businesses that are WEEE certified operate approved authorised treatment facilities (AATFs). An AATF can treat waste and issue evidence notes for reuse and treatment on the WEEE they receive.
If you’d like to find out more about what’s involved in applying for approval, there’s information on the Gov.UK website.
How do I find out my SIC code for WEEE?
A Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code refers to the business activity of the company that produced the hazardous electrical or electronic waste. You’ll need to know this so you can add it to your waste consignment note which is required when moving any waste, including hazardous waste.
Is the WEEE directive a law?
Yes, since January 2014 the Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations 2013 have been law in the UK. This means any company producing or distributing electronic or electrical waste needs to comply with the WEEE regulations and ensure the waste is disposed of correctly.
The onus to handle and dispose of the waste correctly is placed on the waste producers and distributors. This is why many retailers offer a free in-store ‘take-back’ scheme so customers can return their electronic or electrical devices back to the shop they bought it from, or agree to take away old electrical or electronic items when delivering or fitting new ones.
If a producer or distributor doesn’t comply with WEEE Regulations then they could face criminal prosecution.
There’s an overview of the regulations that apply to the treatment of WEEE on the Environment Law website.
What are the aims of the WEEE Directive?
The main aim of the WEEE Directive is to reduce the amount of electronic and electrical waste going to landfill.
The directive aims to do this by encouraging companies to:
- improve the design of electrical and electronic products so they contain less material, are easier to dismantle, contain a greater number of recyclable parts and contain fewer toxic materials
- make it easier for consumers to dispose of old electronic and electrical goods, for example by offering ‘take-back’ or collection schemes and meet the cost of collecting and processing WEEE
- ensure the treatment of WEEE waste meets recovery and recycling targets
What are WEEE approved producer compliance schemes?
WEEE producer compliance schemes (PCS) take on your duties to finance the collection, treatment, recovery and environmentally sound disposal of WEEE. For example, a producer compliance scheme will register your business with the relevant environment agency and assist in checking and submitting your data to ensure compliance.
Depending on the size of your operation, producer compliance schemes will also take on your legal responsibilities for your compliance with the WEEE Directive.
You will need to join a PCS if you’ve placed more than five tonnes of WEEE on the UK market. You can find out more about the benefits of joining a PCS here.
Who has to comply with the WEEE Directive?
Any company that brings electrical or electronic equipment (EEE) to the UK market through the following means must register with the Environment Agency (EA) directly or via a producer compliance scheme (PCS):
- Manufacturing and selling electronic and electrical items under your own brand
- Selling EEE made by another company under your own brand (rebranding)
- Importing EEE for sale in the UK
- Distance selling EEE from outside the UK
You’re not classed as a producer if you buy an item of EEE from outside the UK and bring it into the UK for your individual use.
You can find out more about the responsibilities of producing EEE on the Gov.uk website.
How does WEEE recycling collection work?
As part of their WEEE Directive compliance, companies that produce or sell electronic and electrical equipment have to ensure waste equipment is processed responsibly and meets recovery and recycling targets.
To ensure as little WEEE as possible ends up in landfill, producers and sellers are required to make it as easy as possible for consumers to dispose of WEEE, for example by offering retail ‘take-back’ or collection schemes. This is where consumers can drop off WEEE at the shop they bought it from or retailers will take away old items when they deliver new ones, this often applies to large white goods such as fridges or washing machines.
Alternatively, consumers can arrange for kerbside collections by their local authority.
What recycling centres accept WEEE?
It’s your business’s responsibility to ensure any WEEE you accumulate is recycled responsibly in an Approved Authorised Treatment Facility (AATF). An AATF is permitted to treat electronic and electrical waste through shredding, recovery, disassembly and recycling.
An AATF will issue you with an evidence note which you must keep as proof that you’ve dealt with WEEE responsibly.
It’s important to note that it’s an offence for businesses to take WEEE to household waste recycling centres (HWRC). This is because HWRC can’t issue evidence notes like AATFs can. If a company took their WEEE to a HWRC they wouldn’t be able to prove they’ve disposed of their WEEE in a responsible way by using licensed companies and registered waste carriers.
How do I dispose of WEEE that contains confidential data?
Not all AATFs offer secure data destruction for WEEE items such as hard drives and laptops. If you need to dispose of IT equipment, choose an AATF with security-cleared staff and specially designed shredders to shred equipment into small pieces so the data can’t be recovered.
If you’re an individual who wants to get rid of WEEE, then bear in mind that HWRCs don’t provide secure data removal from items such as hard drives, so you’d need to wipe the discs before taking them to the centre.
Alternatively, drop off any WEEE containing confidential data at a waste company that shreds hard drives, as this will ensure the data is irrecoverable. You can read more about hard drive and data destruction in our guide Hard drive destruction services: what they do and how they protect your data.
How much does WEEE disposal cost?
This will depend on the type of WEEE, volume of WEEE and collection location, so jobs are priced individually.
Individuals can get rid of WEEE at HWRC or through take-back and collection schemes.
WEEE services from Russell Richardson
Russell Richardson offers a full WEEE collection and recycling service to companies that want to comply with the WEEE Directive.
Businesses and individuals can use our WEEE recycling services to dispose of any WEEE, including waste that contains confidential data, such as hard drives and laptops. We remove and shred any data bearing components as part of our service.
Russell Richardson is licensed to carry WEEE but we don’t process it on-site, we take it to an AATF for processing.
If your business has generated a lot of WEEE due to upgrading your computer system for example, or if you’re a retailer and needs to dispose of take-back WEEE, then we can help. Visit our IT Recycling and WEEE page for further information or contact us here.