Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)

The following article outlines The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, who is affected by it, the aims of the directive and the role played by the Department of the Environment in enforcing the directive.

Purpose of the directive

To contribute to sustainable production and consumption by as a first priority, the prevention of WEEE and, in addition, by the reuse, recycling and other forms of recovery of such wastes so as to reduce the disposal of waste and to contribute to the efficient use of resources and the retrieval of valuable secondary raw materials. It also seeks to improve the environmental performance of all operators involved in the life cycle of EEE (eg producers, distributors and consumers) and, in particular those operators directly involved in the collection and treatment of WEEE.

The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive was published on 27 January 2003. This was replaced by the recast Directive 2012/19/EU on 4th July 2012 (all references to the Directive from this point refer to the recast).

Who is affected by the directive?

The WEEE Directive has implications for:

  • producers 
  • distributors
  • treatment facilities
  • local authorities
  • consumers

Aims of the directive

  • encourage the reuse of EEE
  • reduce waste from Electric and Electronic Equipment (EEE)
  • increase collection, recovery and recycling rates of WEEE
  • encourage the separate collection of WEEE and minimise the disposal of it as unsorted municipal waste
  • ensure that separately collected WEEE undergoes proper treatment.
  • improve the environmental performance of all operators involved throughout the lifecycle of EEE
  • implement producer responsibility for WEEE
  • introduce formally minimum requirements to distinguish between shipments of EEE and WEEE.

Scope of the directive

The WEEE Directive covers all electrical and electronic equipment used by consumers and electrical and electronic equipment intended for professional use. The Directive sorts EEE into 10 categories:

  1. large household appliances
  2. small household appliances
  3. IT and telecommunications equipment
  4. consumer equipment and photovoltaic panels.
  5. lighting equipment
  6. electrical and electronic tools (with the exception of large scale stationary industrial tools)
  7. toys, leisure and sports equipment
  8. medical devices (with the exception of all implanted and infected products)
  9. monitoring and control instruments
  10. automatic dispensers

Annex II of the WEEE Directive provides a list of products that fall under each category. The list is not exhaustive but shows examples of the type of products included in the broader categories.

What are the directive targets for collection and recovery?

By 31 December 2006, the UK was to achieve a rate of separate WEEE collection of four kilograms per person per year from private households. Under the 2012 Directive this target remained in effect until 31 December 2015. From 2016 the minimum WEEE collection rate will be 45% of the average total weight of EEE placed on the market over the preceding three years. From 1 January 2019, it will be 65%.

Where possible, priority should be given to the reuse of WEEE. Where reuse is not possible, all WEEE separately collected should be sent for recovery. Producers must meet recovery and recycling targets set out in Annex V. Different targets are set for different categories of WEEE.

Our role under the WEEE directive

We are responsible for:

  • approving producer compliance schemes
  • registering producers of EEE and maintaining a public register
  • identifying unregistered producers and bringing them into compliance
  • regulating sites that store and treat WEEE
  • approving treatment facilities and exporters of WEEE so that they are able to issue evidence of treatment and recovery
  • monitoring and enforcing compliance with the treatment and recovery requirements.
  • NIEA WEEE Batteries Compliance Monitoring Plan 2019

For further information on the WEEE directive you can contact:

WEEE and disposal of hazardous waste

Since July 2004, the Landfill Directive has banned the co-disposal of hazardous wastes with other types of waste. The revised European Waste Catalogue includes a number of waste streams not previously considered to be hazardous, including:

  • fluorescent tubes
  • television sets
  • computer monitors

For more information on hazardous waste, or the movement of waste outside of Northern Ireland, you can contact:

WEEE regulations

The directive has been implemented in the UK through a number of different regulations:

Two further sets of regulations apply to Northern Ireland:

Consultation on WEEE Compliance Fee Methodology 2017

Defra has launched a UK-wide consultation on proposals for the setting of a WEEE compliance fee. The consultation contains two proposals from external organisations for a compliance fee methodology and administrator for 2017.  Comments are invited on whether the Secretary of State should set a compliance fee for 2017 and if so the extent to which each of the proposals meet the published evaluation criteria. Further details of the consultation, including how to respond can be found at the link below. 

Consultation on proposed amendments to the UK Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2013

The Department published the above named consultation paper as part of a UK-wide consultation.
This has now closed. There is a combined summary of responses and the formal DEFRA Responses to the consultation. It sets out how DEFRA intends to take forward each of the issues on which views were sought. 

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