Frequently asked questions

WEEE

What is WEEE?

WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) is the industrial term for electrical waste, named after the EU Directive that regulates its disposal. Electrical waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world. Electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) includes anything with a battery or a plug on it. Please note that fluorescent tubes and low energy light bulbs are also classified as EEE/WEEE, while the EU directive does not cover old-style filament light bulbs.

What is the WEEE Directive?

The WEEE Directive was brought in to reduce increasing amounts of electrical waste (WEEE) going to landfill. The Directive requires electronic goods producers to pay for recycling this equipment when it becomes waste.

Who pays for WEEE recycling?

Producers (manufacturers and importers) of electronic and electrical goods have to join an authorised ‘producer compliance scheme’, also known as a WEEE compliance scheme. The producer pays its chosen scheme to collect and recycle WEEE on its behalf.

Where can you take WEEE for recycling?

Ask your local authority where to dispose of it locally. All local authorities accept WEEE for free from households, usually at recycling centres. A WEEE compliance scheme will collect the WEEE from the local authority. This service is paid for by EEE producers. In some EU countries, WEEE is also collected by retailers.

Who pays for business WEEE recycling?

Local authority recycling centres will not accept business WEEE. In order to dispose of business-produced WEEE you should contact the producer of the equipment (i.e., if it has a crossed out wheelie bin symbol on it). If you are replacing products and the old products do not have a crossed out wheelie bin symbol on them, you will have to contact the producer of the new products that you are purchasing.

Is all WEEE collected by compliance schemes?

Currently over 50% of WEEE is not collected by WEEE compliance schemes. This can be accounted for in a number of ways:

  • If a new item is heavier than the old one it replaces – for example, new large American style fridges – this accounts for some of the ‘missing’ un-recycled WEEE.
  • Electrical goods may be purchased as additional appliances for our homes. In this case, there obviously is no similar item to recycle.
  • Items may be re-used (sold as used, given away for free, etc.).
  • Broken items may remain in people’s houses.
  • Waste may also be legally disposed of in landfills or illegally dumped or exported.
What is WEEE used for?

The plastics, circuit boards, wiring, metals and batteries can all be extracted and used to make new products.

Are photovaltics (PVs) subject to the WEEE Directive?

As part of the WEEE Directive, PV module recycling is a legal obligation across Europe. Moreover, the transposition of the WEEE directive into the legislation of member states means that waste PV Module collection and recycling are now subject to producer responsibility.

Batteries

What is the EU Batteries Directive?

The EU Batteries Directive compels battery producers to pay for the collection and recycling of depleted batteries.

What is a battery compliance scheme?

Producers must use a battery compliance scheme to manage recycling. All schemes are registered with the relevant authorities in their member state.

What does “Battery Producer” refer to?

The term “Battery Producer” extends beyond battery manufacturers to any company imports batteries or products that contain batteries. Retailers that import their own brand batteries or batteries within products are also classified as battery producers.

Do all producers have to join a battery compliance scheme?

All producers must join a battery compliance scheme if they produce or import more than one tonne of batteries per year. (This is the equivalent of about 30 packs of 4 AA alkaline batteries per day.) Those producing or importing a tonne or less per year must register with the Environment Agency, but are not required to pay for battery recycling.

How will batteries be collected?

Battery compliance schemes make arrangements to collect batteries from collection points such as local authority sites, shops, offices and schools, often using existing collection rounds where possible to minimise costs and carbon emissions.

Who will pay for battery recycling?

If batteries are discarded with household waste, the cost of collection and disposal is borne by local authorities. Landfill is an increasingly expensive method of disposal, as landfill sites become full and landfill taxes increase. Recycling will shift the cost of disposal to battery producers. Producers have an obligation to collect and treat batteries in proportion to the amount they sell each year. The legislation has set a target of 45% by the end of 2016.

What does this Directive mean for local authorities?

The Directive applies to battery producers and retailers. There is no legal obligation for local authorities under the terms of the Directive, but most are likely to collect waste batteries at their recycling centres once national battery recycling begins. Battery compliance schemes will then collect from these sites for free and sort and treat the batteries. There will be no cost to local authorities and no effect on council taxes, as battery producers will be paying for this service.

How will consumers be affected?

Consumers can take their waste batteries to any collection point, such as local authority recycling centres or shops that sell batteries. Moreover, workplaces, libraries and schools will also collect waste batteries.

How will retailers be affected?

Battery retailers will have to collect batteries if they sell over 32kg per year (around one four-pack of AA batteries per day). Retailers must collect batteries similar in type to those they supply, even if the person depositing them does not buy a new battery. Battery compliance schemes will provide shops with battery boxes and arrange for free collection when they are full.

Why has the EU introduced the Battery Directive?

Battery recycling is good for the environment. Most batteries contain toxic metals (such as nickel, cadmium or mercury) that cause pollution if they end up in landfills or incinerators. Recycling batteries also means that the valuable metals can be re-used and saves energy by reducing the need for raw materials.

Can all batteries be recycled?

Yes. All types of batteries can be recycled, both disposable and rechargeable. The only batteries that are exempt from this Directive are those used in equipment related to national security interests, arms, munitions and war material.

How many batteries are there in a tonne?

There are approximately 43,500 AA alkaline batteries to one tonne.

Packaging

What is the European Parliament and Council Directive 94/62/EC of 20 December 1994 on packaging and packaging waste?

It was the first Directive that addressed a series of measures which main target was to limit the generation of packaging waste and promote recycling, reuse and other ways of valorization for these waste; considering elimination as the less valuable and last alternative.

Obligations

What are the obligations of consumers?
  • Collect and separate household waste.
  • Deposit used batteries in appropriate containers.
  • Take old household appliances to civic amenity sites or retailers when buying a new one equivalent.
  • Acquire new eco-friendly products.
What are the obligations of producers?
  • Respect the “producer responsibility principle”.
  • Factor recycling into total product cost.
  • Declare quantities of produced/imported items.
  • Meet all legal obligations through compliance schemes such as ERP.
What are the obligations of distributors?
  • Select products from reliable importers and producers and who can provide their registration number.
  • Provide or support collection points for WEEE and Batteries.
  • Raise awareness about recycling.
What are the obligations of local authorities?
  • Promote recycling of local household waste.
  • Provide collection points for WEEE and Batteries.
  • Cooperate with schemes to manage waste through appropriate channels.
  • Raise awareness about recycling.
What are the obligations of Extended Producer Responsibility organisations?
  • Manage compliance obligations and declarations for producers.
  • Organise collection and treatment of waste.
  • Separate waste for treatment and re-use.
  • Optimize the recycling/waste cycle.
  • Organize recycling days and other events to raise awareness about recycling.
  • Inform Autonomous Communities of the waste management results each year.

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