Too much electronic and electrical waste (WEEE) is still going into landfill despite strict regulations, a body established to encourage e-waste recycling in the UK says.
Material Focus, formerly the WEEE Fund, was set up with funds from the UK’s e-waste compliance scheme to help boost recycling waste.
It says that 145,000 tonnes of WEEE and battery waste generated by business and industry is still being thrown away. Domestically, we are also throwing away 155,000 tonnes of WEEE every year.
UK households also hoard 527 million old small electrical items.
Material Focus says the UK’s economy could save £370 million if these WEEE items were recycled.
As one of the largest producers of WEEE waste in the world, it’s so important that the UK plays its part in recycling this waste and reducing the amount of greenhouse gases used to produce these items.
In 2019, the UK generated 1.6 million tonnes of e-waste, the Global Waste Monitor found. We were the second largest generator of WEEE waste per capita in the world in last year, beaten only by Norway.
What is WEEE?
WEEE stands for waste electrical and electronic equipment.
There are 14 different categories of WEEE waste in the UK and they cover all sorts of equipment such as laptops and PCs, mobile phones, printers, toasters, kettles, televisions, lamps, microwaves, fans, batteries, and fridges.
What does the law say about WEEE & battery waste?
The law says WEEE and battery waste must not be sent to landfill.
Producers and distributors of WEEE waste have different obligations in law. Producers must be in a compliance scheme or register with the environmental regulator if they are small producers.
Distributors, such as retailers, must accept WEEE for free from customers when they are supplied with like-for-like products. This can be done in store, online, or by mail order.
WEEE waste must be taken to an approved, authorised treatment facility where it is weighed and categorised.
It is broken up and its component parts are recycled and re-used. Any hazardous waste services are processed safely.
Waste batteries must be processed by an approved battery treatment operator.
What must your business do?
If you are a user of electrical and electronic items, your waste must be sent for recycling.
The waste you ship may be considered hazardous if it includes batteries and some items covered by the WEEE regulations, including freezers and fridges. They contain ozone-depleting chemicals.
Electronic items which have capacitors containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are also classed as hazardous.
Any hazardous waste must have a consignment note if it is moved and it must be moved by a registered waste carrier.
The note must say who has the waste and explain where it is going. It must also describe how the was created, note the quantity, and describe any chemical components.
Your carrier must then enter its details and note the vehicle which will transport it.
These details must be checked at each step of the process and signed off by the business sending the waste, the carrier, and those receiving it.
Why is WEEE recycling good for your business?
You stay on the right side of the law and avoid a potentially damaging fine if your business is found to be sending WEEE waste to landfill.
Recycling e-waste also helps your business prove its credentials when it comes to sustainability.
How do you choose the right WEEE waste partner for your business?
- Ensure the company has the right ISO accreditations, as Inspire Waste Management does.
- Ask for testimonials from past clients.
- Make sure they can meet the environmental and health and safety regulations.
- Ask if they will provide you with a full audit trail for any WEEE waste items you have removed.
- Ask to see their waste carrier licence.