WEEE – or Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment – is subject to strict regulations in the UK. If you manufacture, import, re-brand or sell electrical goods, you must take steps to encourage waste to be reused or recycled – as stated by the WEEE regulations which came into force in 2006.
Under the regulations, most businesses are defined as either a ‘producer’ or a ‘distributor’. Depending on your status, your business will have to follow certain rules and will be subject to monitoring for compliance.
For example, if you are a retailer you will be classed as a ‘distributor’, as you are distributing electrical items to customers. As a shop, you will have to offer in-store take back of old electrical goods such as washing machines and dishwashers, or alternatively you can join the distributor take-back scheme.
If you are a ‘producer’ – for example an importer of home entertainment systems – you must register as such and join a producer compliance scheme. This depends on the amount of electronic and electrical equipment (EEE) you introduce to the UK market, usually measured in tonnes.
It is important to note that consumers are under no obligations. Instead, it is the role of the producer or distributor to encourage the correct, responsible disposal of electrical waste (WEEE).
How are WEEE Regulations Changing?
In the New Year, WEEE regulations will be undergoing some changes with the aim of making compliance more straightforward and cost effective for participating businesses. As of 1st January 2014, the following amendments will come into force – as outlined by a guidance document provided by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills:
- There will be mandatory collection targets for compliance schemes
- Photovoltaic panels (solar PV) will be included as part of the WEEE scheme
- Producer compliance schemes will be compulsory, unless the amount of goods handled falls below the threshold
- Trading of evidence will be vetoed for producers, to reduce costs
- Schemes which are ‘over-collecting’ will need to finance the excess
- Schemes which are ‘under-collecting’ will have to pay a fee per uncollected tonne of WEEE
- Local authorities will be able to select WEEE streams to manage directly
This interim guidance produced by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills is set to be reviewed following the publishing of the draft European Commission WEEE guidance. Currently, all electronic and electrical equipment is set to be included under the guidelines from August 2018, unless specifically excluded.