Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (“WEEE”) FAQ’s

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Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (“WEEE”) FAQ’s

The below Questions and Answers are intended to help organisations who want to ensure the best possible outcome for their end-of-life PCs and laptops and make sure they fully comply with the WEEE legislation. In particular, it will help to explain the scope of the WEEE legislation in the UK as it relates to the reuse of IT equipment.  It also highlights  how Computer Aid International can provide a solution which will enable organisations to comply with the WEEE legislation whilst ensuring their equipment is reused or recycled to maximise social and environmental benefit.

What is the WEEE Directive & what are the UK WEEE regulations?

The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive) is an EU law  which aims to minimise the impact of electrical and electronic goods on the environment, by increasing re-use and recycling and reducing the amount of WEEE going to landfill. EU directives must be implemented into national law to have full effect. In the UK, we implemented the WEEE Directive through the 2006 and 2009 WEEE Regulations (the ‘regulations’), which came into force respectively in 2007 and 2010, although most of the key provisions discussed in this guide were in force on 2 January 2007.

 However, it is important to note that the EU Directive is currently being amended (or ‘recast’). So once the new directive is adopted, it will need to be implemented in the UK. So, new UK regulations will be needed. Watch this space!

Computer Aid has put together a briefing paper explaining some of the weeknesses in the current directive and what changes we would like to see in the new directive. You can access the briefing paper here.  For an explanation on how the  EU legislative process works click here . We also have links at the end of this page to provide you with more details on the EU regime and its UK implementation.

The next section explains in brief overview how the current UK system works.

How do they work?

The regulations state that producers, manufacturers and retailers of electrical and electronic equipment will be responsible for ensuring any equipment sold after 13th August 2005 or being replaced on a like for like basis, is re-used or recycled at the end of life. All producers and manufacturers  are required to be a member of a Producer Compliance Scheme (PCS) which will deliver collection and reprocessing services of equipment on their behalf. Some producers, manufacturers and retailers will have their own PCS, others will be members of a collective scheme. There are currently at least 22 PCSs . The PCSs will send WEEE to re-use and recycling organisations to be processed. These organisations must be registered as Approved Authorised Treatment Facilities (AATF) with the Environment Agency. The AATFs will provide evidence of the amounts of WEEE treated to the PCSs including a breakdown of the type of equipment and its weight. Organisations transporting equipment overseas for reprocessing must be registered as an Approved Exporter with the Environment Agency.

Who is affected by the regulations?

Producers, retailers and distributors, local authorities, waste management industry, exporters and re-processors, businesses and other non-household users of EEE.

How do the WEEE regulations affect me as a business?

The WEEE legislation  potentially affects every organisation and business that uses electrical equipment in the workplace. The regulations cover many types of electrical and electronic equipment, and certainly covers most ICT equipment (including the obvious, such as computers, printers, fax machines and photocopiers), as well as fridges, kettles and electronic pencil sharpeners. The regulations state that business users are responsible, along with producers, for ensuring their WEEE is correctly treated and reprocessed. Please see the links below for further guidance on the scope of the legislation.

The rules place responsibility on the producers and retailers of WEEE to pay for and organise the collection, treatment, and recovery of WEEE. They can levy a charge at the point of sale to cover this cost at the end of life. Check the small print of any contract to see if you are paying for this service at the end of life. You can ask for these charges to be removed if you wish to make your own arrangements for end of life equipment.

If the equipment for disposal was purchased after 13th August 2005 or replaced on a like for like basis when buying new equipment, a business can request that either the original producer or the retailer of the new equipment collect it at its end of life. This may make sense for broken or obsolete equipment.

However, a business user is not obliged to send their equipment back to the producer; they can choose where they would like their equipment to go. Businesses must simply ensure their unwanted equipment is being dealt with in accordance with the regulations. This means that they must send their equipment to an AATF or and ATF who can provide them with a transfer note that details the type and volume of equipment disposed of.

The good news is that the WEEE regulations will not prevent or restrict you from donating your equipment for re-use to a charity such as Computer Aid International. In fact, the regulations actually encourage the re-use of equipment over recycling. By donating your equipment to Computer Aid you are prioritising re-use and fully complying with the directive. Paragraph 224 of the Government guidelines on the WEEE Directive on the BIS website, states: "The Regulations do not restrict or prevent you from selling or donating EEE for reuse".

Why should I ensure that equipment is reused wherever possible?

Re-using equipment saves energy and resources and prevents hazardous materials from ending up in landfill. Empirical research proves beyond doubt that reuse of computers is much better for the environment than recycling. Reusing a computer is 20 times more effective at saving life cycle energy use than recycling.

One study has found that the production of every desktop PC consumes 240kg of fossil fuels, 22 kg of chemicals and 1.5 tonnes of water. Given the substantial environmental cost of production it important we recover the full productive value of every PC through reuse before eventually recycling it to recover parts and materials at its true end-of-life.

A refurbished computer from Computer Aid International can provide up to 6000 hours of training in a developing country. This means basic computer literacy for up to 60 children from just one donated computer.

For more details on the benefits of reuse over recycling, click here

How does the WEEE legislation affect charities such as Computer Aid International?

The WEEE legislation actively supports the role of organisations such as Computer Aid International. The regulations state that re-use charities provide both environmental and socio-economic benefits. To encourage re-use, the government has decided that evidence of re-use by charities can be used by the PCSs towards their targets for re-use or recycling of WEEE. Paragraph250 of the WEEE Directive government guidelines state: "The government believes that the inclusion of re-use of whole appliances in evidence returns delivers the most appropriate and strongest incentive...to work with genuine re-use organisations and to prioritise re-use of whole appliances where appropriate."

The government is also encouraging re-use charities to register as an AATF to enable them to continue their vital work.

Do I need to worry about data security?

Under the Data Protection Act 1998 it is your responsibility to destroy any personal data that may be stored on the machines. Just hitting the delete button is not enough to wipe the data. To ensure you are protected make sure any organisation you use to dispose of your WEEE uses a professional data wiping solution like the CESG approved Ontrack Erasure deletion service offered by Computer Aid International which ensures that data recovery is impossible. For more information on Computer Aid's data destruction services click here.

Useful Links

Here are some links to our guides and those from external websites that you may find useful in understanding WEEE legislation:

  • For the text of the current EU WEEE Directive, click here
  • For the EU Commission’s guide to the WEEE Directive, click here
  • For the EU Commission’s proposal for a revised (‘recast’) WEEE directive, click here
  • For our overview of how the EU legislative process works and where we are in that process in recasting the WEEE Directive, click here
  • For our views on the key changes that should be made to the current WEEE Directive during this recast process, click here
  • For the UK government’s guides to the 2007 and 2009 Regulations, click here
  • For the Environment Agency’s WEEEE pages, click here