Recycling Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment
In 2005 the EU introduced new legislation to deal with Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). The purpose of this legislation is to ensure that old electrical and electronic equipment is recycled or reused rather than disposed in landfill sites (dumps). Another aim of the legislation is to encourage better design of electrical and electronic products to ensure that they can be recycled easily and more efficiently. The WEEE directive was transposed into Irish Law in SI 340 Waste Management (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Regulations 2005.
In December 2008, the European Commission proposed to revise the Directive in order to tackle the fast increasing waste stream. The new WEEE Directive 2012/19/EU entered into force on 13 August 2012 and became effective on 14 February 2014.
Retailers of electrical and electronic equipment have a number of obligations in relation to waste from electrical and electronic equipment. They must:
- Register as a producer of WEEE
- Provide free in-store take back for customers buying new electrical equipment
- Ensure that waste electrical products are stored and transported to an approved collection facility appropriately
- Ensure that consumers of electrical equipment are aware of take-back options available to them.
There is more detail on these obligations below.
Retailer take back
Retailers must provide free in-store take back for old electrical and electronic equipment from customers. This must be done on a one-for-one, like-for-like basis. This means that the old product must be of the same type or have fulfilled the same function as the new item purchased. However, retailers with an electrical sales area greater than 400 square meters will have to accept small appliances (less than 25 cm) from customers for recycling without the customer having to make a purchase.
If a product is being delivered you are entitled to have the old item collected at the same time for no extra cost on the same one-for-one, like for like basis. If a new product is being delivered to a customer’s home retailers cannot charge for collection of the waste equipment (although a retailer can charge a delivery fee). Retailers must give 24 hours notice of delivery and the old item must be disconnected from all utilities. If a retailer has not given 24 hours’ notice of delivery and an old appliance is not ready for collection they must return to collect it within 15 days.
If you do not wish to avail of the free collection of waste equipment on delivery of new equipment, then you can return it to the retailer’s premises at any time.
You can deposit certain types of waste batteries at retail outlets for free (see 'Batteries and contaminated waste' below).
Environmental Management Costs
Producers have to fund the recycling of WEEE arising from goods they place on the market after 13 August 2005, and also the recycling of all WEEE arising from all goods placed on the market prior to this. Producers must fund the management of this ‘historic waste’ on the basis of their current market share.
Visible Environmental Management Costs (vEMCs) show the costs of recycling as approved by the WEEE Register Society Limited, an industry-based national WEEE registration body, which has an independent Committee of Management. These costs will fund the two collective compliance schemes operating in Ireland, WEEE Ireland and the European Recycling Platform, to enable them to pay for the environmentally sound management of all household WEEE taken back by retailers or deposited by members of the public at local authority civic amenity sites.
The vEMCs displayed to consumers cannot exceed the actual costs of recycling. The WEEE Register, the national registration body for producers has verified and issued a schedule of vEMCs (pdf) to be displayed.
Some products attract a visible Environmental Management Cost (vEMC). A vEMC is to be displayed on all refrigeration units, large household appliances, televisions greater than 73cm, gas discharge lamps and LED‘s. The retail price of the item must be shown inclusive of the vEMC and shall include the following wording: ‘Included in this price is a contribution to recycling costs of (amount of contribution)’. In all retail transactions each retailer must make available at the point of sale to the purchaser an invoice, receipt or docket which shall state ‘Price of electrical items includes a contribution to recycling costs’.
Information on disposal of equipment
Retailers are obliged to provide information to the consumer on how they can dispose of the electrical and electronic equipment when it comes to the end of that equipment’s life. Retailers may do this by providing leaflets or signage at the point of sale.
Batteries and contaminated waste
Batteries should be disposed of carefully and not sent to landfill as they are classed as hazardous waste. At present, according to WEEE legislation retailers only need to take batteries, which are contained within electrical or electronic equipment. You should dispose of all other batteries in a local authority civic amenity site.
You can deposit waste batteries at retail outlets for free. Retailers must take back batteries of a type they supply. They do not have to take back batteries of a type they do not supply. For example, retailers will not have to take back a car battery if they only sell batteries suitable for a torch or remote control. You do not need to have bought your battery in that particular shop and you do not have to buy anything from the shop when you are depositing waste batteries.
Retailers are not obliged to accept contaminated waste that would present a health and safety risk to their staff, for example leaking batteries.
You can also deposit waste portable batteries and waste car batteries from privately registered vehicles at local authority civic amenity facilities free of charge.
Civic Amenity Sites
Consumers may bring items of electronic and electrical equipment to Civic Amenity sites to dispose of them free of charge. Civic amenity sites are places where all sorts of recyclable material can be delivered and sorted by consumers and are run by local authorities.