Waste from electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)
Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) is electrical and electronic equipment that is broken or unwanted. It is important to dispose responsibly of any appliance that runs on electricity (or that contains electrical parts) in order to avoid causing damage to the environment.
- Large household appliances (fridges, freezers, washing machines, dishwashers)
- Small household appliances (toasters, coffee makers, irons, hairdryers)
- Information technology (IT) and telecommunications equipment (PCs, phones, laptops, printers, scanners, photocopiers)
- Consumer equipment (TVs, stereo equipment, electric toothbrushes)
- Lighting equipment (fluorescent lamps)
- Electrical and electronic tools (handheld drills, saws, screwdrivers)
- Toys, leisure and sports equipment
- Medical equipment systems (except implanted or infected products)
- Monitoring and control instruments
- Automatic dispensers
- Batteries and accumulators
What are the main environmental concerns?
The main risks to the environment from WEEE are the depletion of natural resources and the release of dangerous substances:
- If we send electrical and electronic products to landfill sites, we miss the opportunity to recover and reuse millions of tonnes of materials. Recovery of these materials would mean we need to extract less raw material to manufacture new products.
- Some electronic equipment and its components contain substances that are considered dangerous to the environment and human health if they are disposed of carelessly. Although these dangerous substances are usually present in only small amounts, they may leak into the soil, water or air and can cause serious environmental damage.
How can WEEE be disposed of?
The three main ways to manage waste are landfill, incineration and recycling.
- Landfill is the disposal of waste material by burying it. Space at landfill sites is becoming scarce. WEEE should not be put in landfill sites because of the harmful substances it contains.
- Incineration destroys materials by burning them at high temperatures.
- The recycling industry is complex. It includes large
shredder operators and smaller specialist recyclers:
- Shredders recover metals by putting items such as old cars and household appliances through hammer mills (also known as fragmentisers).
- Smaller recycling businesses may specialise in, for example, plastics recycling, refining precious metals, or repair and refurbishment
- Other recycling companies collect items for export to countries that have more advanced recycling systems or that can extract components and reusable materials from the waste.
Who pays for recycling WEEE?
By law, producers of electrical and electronic goods are responsible for financing the collection, treatment, recovery and environmentally sound disposal of WEEE.
This means you can return your household WEEE free of charge, either to a shop when buying a replacement item or to another authorised collection point, such as a local authority civic amenity site. WEEE includes batteries (pdf) and accumulators.
The relevant legislation is the WEEE Directive 2012/19/EU, which entered into force on 13 August 2012 and became effective on 14 February 2014. This updated the first WEEE Directive (Directive 2002/96/EC) of February 2003, which provided for the creation of free collection schemes for household WEEE.
How do local authorities deal with WEEE?
Local authorities have developed special initiatives for handling WEEE within their general waste management plans. You can take your WEEE free of charge to your local civic amenity site, where it will be collected for recycling instead of being sent to a landfill site. For information on initiatives in your area and for advice on how to deal with WEEE, contact your local authority.
Where to apply