What are the WEEE regulations?

The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations make an EU Directive law in the UK. The law was completely re-written in 2013, having been introduced originally in 2007, and applies to anyone making, importing or selling electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) in the UK or selling from the UK into other EU member states.

Obligated companies must pay levies to support the safe and environmentally sound disposal of EEE at end of life, with a major emphasis being placed on the reuse of EEE wherever possible. As with packaging waste regulations, levies are paid to the waste industry not the government.

There are three main activities and sub-activities – see below for details – and one lesser. The lesser is that of ‘Only representative’ a company appointed by a non-UK based companies to comply with its obligations here.

Producer activity

A producer is anyone who manufactures, under their own brand, EEE in the UK or who imports EEE into the UK for the first time.

Producers must register with the government and provide details of the weight, type and brand name of products placed on the market during the previous calendar quarter. Based on these weights and a government defined calculation, levies are then paid to a compliance scheme who oversee the collection and environmentally sound treatment of that amount of EEE.

A subset of producers – known as small producers – are those who place 5 tonnes or less of EEE on the market in a calendar year. Small producers make a less detailed annual return and pay only a flat fee (currently £30).

Distributor activity

A distributor is any business selling EEE to consumers by any means, including online and mail order sales. Where a distributor is selling to consumers in other EU member states, they are deemed an overseas distributor and must comply with the WEEE regulations in each destination country.

All distributors must take back WEEE from customers who are buying a new similar product from them. The requirement is ‘like-for-like’ meaning that if someone buys a kettle from you, you must take back an old kettle if they bring it to you. You are not required to take back a different form of EEE. However, if you have a EEE retail sales area of 400 sqM or more, then you must also take back ‘very small WEEE’ without a purchase requirement. Very small WEEE is classified as EEE with no dimension in excess of 25cm.

Business user activity

If you use EEE in your business, you cannot dispose of it in normal waste collections. Instead you should contact the producer of the EEE and ask what their arrangements for disposal are. If you are not able to contact the producer, you can contact any EEE supplier you have a relationship with and they will help you. There is no legal requirement for the supplier to provide this service free of charge, but only ‘reasonable’ fees can be charged. If you are replacing EEE, for example your IT or telecoms systems, then the provider of your new kit should take away your old kit without charge.

Is all EEE subject to the Regulations?

Not yet, although it will be by 2019. RoHS and WEEE share the same categories, so you can find the category list here.