The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive

How to make sure your business' appliances don't end up in landfill

According to the department for business, enterprise and regulatory reform (BERR), we throw away around two million tonnes of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment – or ‘WEEE’ – every year.

Sadly, much of this still ends up in landfill – so however comically acronymed it may be, the WEEE directive has serious implications for anyone involved in the production, manufacture, or import of electrical and electronic equipment – or ‘EEE’.

In a nutshell, the directive is designed to make it easier for businesses to dispose of their used electrical and electronic equipment.

Under new laws introduced at the beginning of 2008, if a business has finished with a piece of EEE which was purchased after August 13, 2005, it is up to the manufacturer to dispose of it free of charge.

If you are a business

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) advises businesses to think twice when looking to replace equipment. Do you need to buy a new product, or can it be upgraded or refurbished? If you have equipment which still works but you no longer need, consider passing it on to others.

BIS also recommends businesses take WEEE regulations into account when buying products. Make sure you retain contact details for the product’s distributors, as well as a registration number, so when it reaches the end of its life, you know who to get in touch with. Similarly, establish whether it’s the producer or a compliance scheme they belong to that you need to contact for disposal.

If you are an importer or manufacturer

If you are an importer or manufacturer, you can find out if you need to comply with the WEEE regulations by checking the Environment Agency website. The directive covers 10 categories, from train sets to IT equipment to vending machines – so chances are that if your business involves any electrical equipment, you will be covered by the regulations.

The best thing to do is to register for a compliance scheme, which will offer advice, guidance, instructions, and recycling solutions to help your business comply with the WEEE regulations, on the Envionment Agency website.

The next step is to provide the scheme with information on how you will dismantle and recycle your products when they come to the end of their life, including information on how any new products might be reused or recycled. Guidance cab be found on the WEEE advisory body website.

Finally, make sure all your products are marked with the ‘crossed out wheelie bin’ symbol, as well as a producer identification mark, so your customers know who to contact when their equipment reaches the end of its life.

For more on the WEEE directive and how it affects your business, go to netregs.gov.uk; the BERR website; or the Environment Agency WEEE microsite.

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