Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)
The aim of the WEEE directive (#2002/96/EC) is to limit the amount of electrical and electronic waste in EU landfills. For details and amendments see the EUROPA website. The WEEE mandate, as well as its companion RoHS directive, affects all electrical and electronic products in certain categories that are sold in the EU market (sometimes referred to as the Single Market), whether to consumers or to businesses.
The implementation date for the WEEE directive was August 13, 2005, but many EU countries have delayed implementation – the exact form of which is allowed to vary across the member states.
WEEE and RoHS categories
There are 10 broad categories of products that are covered by WEEE and RoHS legislation:
- Large household appliances
- Small household appliances
- IT and telecommunications equipment
- Consumer equipment
- Lighting equipment (including electric light bulbs)
- Electrical and electronic tools (with the exception of large-scale stationary industrial tools)
- Toys, leisure and sports equipment
- Medical equipment (currently exempt from RoHS)
- Monitoring and control instruments (currently exempt from RoHS)
- Automatic dispensers.
Two types of WEEE are exempt from the requirements of the rule: military equipment and large-scale stationary industrial equipment.
The WEEE rule is broader in scope and makes more demands on manufacturers than RoHS, which only concerns materials in the product. The principal requirements of the WEEE directive are:
- Consumer WEEE must be collected and recycled free of charge to the consumer, although recycling can be financed through a fee on new purchases. Producers are required to take back the WEEE.
- Producers who sell new equipment to businesses must arrange for take-back of older (sold before August 2005) WEEE and for collection of newer WEEE, and can charge a fee for these services. Businesses that choose not to return older WEEE to the producer must arrange to have it recycled.
- Collected WEEE must be treated to remove all fluids, as well as mercury-containing components, CRTs (from which the fluorescent coating has to be removed), larger LCDs and a number of other specific components.
- New electrical and electronic products must be labeled to show the producer, the date of manufacture or date put on the market, any instructions for recycling, a crossed-out wheeled bin symbol, and specific items that need to be removed from the product when it is collected as WEEE.
In addition, producers are encouraged to design electrical and electronic equipment to facilitate reuse, recycling and recovery of the components and materials.
Who is a producer?
Producers include all manufacturers planning to sell electrical and electronic products in the EU market, those who rebrand another manufacturer’s products and resell them as their own, and importers or distributors of products in either of these categories. The producer is considered to be whoever puts the product on the EU market for the first time. In practice, this is often the importer, which means that in most cases it is the importer’s responsibility to meet the WEEE requirements summarized above.
Although the target implementation date (August 13, 2005) has already passed, only seven EU members were able to meet the deadline on time: Belgium, Finland, Hungary, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. However, all the other member states have agreed to implement take-back systems for WEEE as soon as practicable, so that only the timetable for achieving recycling targets is likely to be delayed for any length of time.
The UK plans to introduce producer responsibility and WEEE take-back obligations in June 2006. It expects to achieve collection and recycling targets by the end of the year.