Electrical Goods Recycling: Legal Requirements

When considering recycling people automatically think of paper, cardboard, glass and plastic. We rarely give a second thought to what will be happening to our white goods and general electrical appliances once we’ve decided they need to go down the tip.

The fact is Electrical equipment is the fastest growing category of rubbish across the European Union. This seems to make sense when you consider how much we rely on electronic and electrical goods to enjoy life and to function in our workplace in modern society. But it’s perhaps a little frightening, that according to statistics around 20kg per person of electrical waste is created every year. Annually, the UK now produces around 1 million tonnes of waste electrical equipment

What many people do not realise is that as well as other laws such as packaging regulations, in 2004 the EC passed a directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. In the UK this is known as WEEE, WEEE compliance or WEEE regulations. Now this is in place businesses need to be aware of what it entails to remain legal.

The WEEE Recycling Directive

The WEEE recycling directive covers three main areas:

• Manufacturing: under WEEE compliance, manufacturers and producers of electrical equipment will be expected to take into consideration eco-friendly requirements at design stage. At the fundamental stage of production both manufacturers and importers will be responsible for ensuring they plan for their products to be recycled rather than dumped. Where possible this will also include further production of existing products.

• WEEE recycling regulations will require electrical equipment producers to finance treatment and recycling/recovery of separately collected WEEE in the UK, to specified treatment standards and recycling/recovery targets.

• The new directive will mean that all shops and retailers will be required by law to offer take-back services to householders. Gone are the days when you had to ask your self – yes, but will they take my old cooker away?

What products are covered in the WEEE compliance regulations?

Products and commodities covered in the regulations are:

• audiovisual and lighting equipment;

• IT and telecommunications equipment;

• medical devices;

• electrical and electronic tools;

• toys, leisure and sports equipment.

• automatic dispensers;

• household appliances

The governments’ goal has been to create a national distributor Take-back Scheme which will establish a network of Designated Collection Facilities; and an obligatory registration for producers through approved compliance schemes.

For further information about WEEE or joining complydirect compliance scheme visit: http://www.complydirect.co.uk

Complying With UK & EU Country WEEE Electronic Recycling Directive

The objective of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive 2002/96/EC is to minimize the environmental impact of electronic waste. The WEEE directive protects landfills and regulates the disposal of discarded or end-of-life electrical or electronic equipment (EEE) also known as e-waste. The related RoHS Directive 2002/95/EC strives to limit the use of six hazardous materials in the manufacture of electronic equipment.

The WEEE Directive provides guidelines for the collection, treatment, recycling and recovery of waste electrical and electronic equipment. The “polluter pays” principle means collection and recovery is largely at the manufacturer’s expense. Specified products include such things as large and small household appliances, IT and telecommunications equipment, consumer equipment, IT and telecommunications equipment.

Reduction of hazardous material content in products at the manufacturing stage will reduce the content of such pollutants in electronic waste. This will enhance the economic feasibility of recycling. Hence RoHS compliance, which in any case is needed for doing business in the EU, is the first important element for any effective recycling. Increased efforts to design products that facilitate recycling of WEEE components and materials are extremely beneficial.

Recycling is one of several waste disposal options. Its effectiveness depends, to a large extent on the type of material to be recycled and the availability of appropriate technology. E-waste such as a computer can be discarded by the original users, but it may still be perfectly functional equipment. In this case material recovery and reuse is a better alternative than recycling. In fact the reuse of waste electrical and electronic equipment is the preferred economic option.

Recycling is technology and material specific. It is mandatory to collect electronic waste separately from municipal waste. While primary administrative responsibility lies with the state, manufacturers have an important role in educating customers on proper waste disposal. The WEEE directive mandates collection of electronic waste at the manufacturer’s cost. Manufacturers must not only ensure that convenient collection points are set up for consumers but must also make provisions for the transportation of the waste materials to the recycling plant.

The WEEE directive mandates that recycling sites should conform to certain minimum standards to prevent adverse environmental impact when treating waste EEE. In most cases, it will not be feasible for a single manufacturer to operate its own recycling center.

Throughout the WEEE recovery chain, producers are required to finance the cost of e-waste collection from consumers; transportation to the recycling center; treatment; recovery and disposal. Producers will generally need to collaborate with other manufacturers to collectively bear the cost for the recycling and waste disposal obligations.

The WEEE and the RoHS are here to stay and further strengthening of environmental regulations is inevitable. One such step is the impending Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH), regulations effective from June 1, 2007 in the European Union. The REACH regulation will control the use of a very wide range of chemicals and is not limited only to the electronics sector. In this increasingly difficult milieu, a proactive approach by producers to comply with the WEEE electronic recycling directive will surely give them dividends for increased competitiveness.

Telecommunication Recycling

Many large corporations and small businesses alike are looking into recycling their office equipment when they decide to upgrade or move to a new location. With today’s technology advancing so quickly, this leaves a lot of out of date electronics that most companies do not know what to do with after they upgrade to newer options. The same goes with telecommunication equipment. There are new phones, hardware, wiring, and everything else you can think of being upgraded on a daily basis when it comes to the communication aspects of a business or corporation, and this is leaving a lot of waste that people do not know what to do with.

The first thing to do is call an electronic recycling company to handle your transition. They will give you a turnkey service by completely dismantling all of your old phones, cords, fax machines, or anything else you plan to get rid of promptly and without damaging anything. This type of company will send out professionals that know how to take electronics out of an office without disturbing anything, or anyone. After they dismantle everything, this is when they will load it all into their truck and take it to their factory where the recycling process will start.

Everything at the recycling plant is organized onto spreadsheets and then brought to the proper locations. They will then be sorted to different areas, such as plastic, metals, and other categories, so that they can be broken down in a manner in which parts can be reused. Most metals and plastics to wiring and phones can be fully dismantled and melted down to where they can be used again on newer technology. This helps keep electronics out of landfills, and helps out the environment because less mining will be done to produce these metals.

The disposal process follows every regulation of the EPA, and is very environmentally minded. There will be some waste left over that cannot be recycled. This waste will properly be disposed of in the most environmentally safe way. After the company is done with the entire process of disposal and recycling, a letter will be sent to the business in which supplied the old telecommunication hardware stating that the process is over with and that they have successfully recycled their old equipment. This type of technological recycling makes a lot of sense considering our modern times that are run by electronics, and new ways are still being innovated today on how to better recycle old electronics.