The so-called WEEE directives deal with waste electrical and electronic equipment. The directive applies to:
- Large and small household appliances;
- IT and telecommunications equipment;
- Consumer equipment;
- Lighting equipment;
- Toys, leisure, and sports equipment;
- Electronic and electrical tools;
- Medical devices;
- Automatic dispensers;
- Monitoring and controlling instruments.
Member states must minimise the disposal of waste electrical and electronic equipment as unsorted municipal waste. They must set up separate collection systems for WEEE. Final users and distributors must be entitled to return such waste free of charge.
Distributors of new products must ensure that waste of the same type of equipment can be returned to them free of charge on a one-to-one basis. Producers must set up an individual or collective take-back system. The return of contaminated waste causing risk to health and safety of persons may be refused.
Producers must provide for the collection of waste that is not from private households. WEEE equipment collected must be transported to authorised treatment facilities,
There are targets in terms of minimum quantities of WEEE waste per private household which must be achieved by member states.
Producers of electrical and electronic equipment must apply the best available treatment, recovery, and recycling techniques. This includes the removal of harmful fluids and substances.
Treatment operations must be undertaken by bodies with proper authorisation. Producers must set up systems recovery for waste, electrical and electronic equipment collected separately.
There are mandatory targets with respect to the rate which must be recovered. There are also percentages in respect of the weight of component material and substance reuse and recycling per appliance. Producers or persons acting on their behalf must record the electrical and electronic waste entering and leaving the treatment of recovering and recycling facilities in a waste register.
Producers must provide for the financing of the collection, from the collection point and for the treatment recovery and environmentally sound disposal of waste electrical and electronic equipment. In the case of equipment placed in the market after August 2005, each producer must provide financing in respect of his own products which it places on the market.
They must be a guarantee concerning the financing of the management of waste. This may be satisfied by taking part in a financing scheme, recycling insurance or blocked bank account. In the case of pre-2005 waste, financing has to be provided by existing producers on the market who have to contribute proportionately.
Users of electronic and electrical equipment in private households must be furnished with the requisite information on the requirement not to mix this waste with unsorted municipal waste and the requirement to ensure separate collection and take back. They must be aware of their role in the recovery of the waste and be aware of the effects on the environment and health. They must be aware of the meaning of the symbol on the packaging (crossed-out wheelie bin). This must appear on the equipment placed on the market after 2005.
The producers must provide information in relation to the reuse and treatment of products on the market. It must identify the components and materials present and the location of dangerous substances and preparation. This must be communicated to reuse centres and treatment and recycling facilities.
Member states must draw up a list of producers and keep information on the categories and quantities of electrical and electronic waste placed on the market, collected, recycled and recovered. This information must be reported to the commission.
Packing and packaging waste must be recovered. Member states must achieve certain percentage recovery by waste by weight by certain dates. By 2008, the following applied:
- 80 percent for glass paperboard;
- 50 percent for metals;
- 22.5 percent for plastic;
- 15 percent for wood. The above targets apply to Ireland in 2011.
Packaging waste placed on the market must apply certain essential requirements with regard to limit, weight, and volume of the packaging in order to
- meet the required level of safety, hygiene, and acceptability for consumers;
- to reduce the content of hazardous substances and materials in packaging material and components;
- to design reusable or recoverable packaging.
Information systems must be designed to monitor and ensure the realisation of the target.
Updated WEEE Obligations
A 2012 Directive updates the legislation on waste, electrical and electronic equipment. The amended legislation broadens its scope to cover all electronic and electrical goods, apart from certain items such as stationery, industrial machinery and military material.
It changes the original four kilograms per inhabitant per year requirement for collection from private household to a variable of one from 2016 onwards. 45% of the average weight of the WEEE and EEE products placed in the market in a given country in the three preceding years is to be recovered in 2016-2108. The percentage is increased to 65% of EEE in or 85% of WEEE in 2019
The reporting obligations of producers are simplified.
National governments must decide penalties to be applied for breach of the legislation.
The earlier legislation had generated unintended administrative and another cost. The collection and recycling rates achieved do not meet the original health and environmental expectations. Only one-third of waste equipment was being treated in accordance with legislation. The rest goes into landfills or receive substandard treatment outside or inside the EU.
Hazardous WEE and Parts
There is a directive in relation to certain hazardous substances which applies to electric light bulbs and similar products. There are requirements in respect of certain chemicals in electrical and electronic equipment. They must be replaced entirely in products by certain dates. Where these substances (lead, mercury, BPPs, BPOEs) cannot be totally eliminated, a very small tolerance level is provided for.
A 2011 Directive updates the earlier Directives on use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment. It extends protection from dangerous chemicals such as lead, mercury and cadmium to more electrical appliances. The ban now applies to all EEE and to cables and spare parts of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE).
The provisions do not apply to a range of items such as industrial tools, weapons, photovoltaic panels.
There is an obligation on manufacturers to ensure that any EEE which they sell has been designed and produced in accordance with the requirements in the legislation. Importers must ensure that the equipment has been approved as meeting the requisite standards. Distributors must also ensure that the rules are complied with.
An annexe to the legislation sets out the categories of EEE covered by the legislation. They range from household appliances to IT equipment. There is an open catch-all category, which applies as of July 2019.
The various annexes including lists of restricted substances and tolerated concentration values are kept under regular review. They are to be adapted to scientific and technical progress and to take account of the risks to health and the environment.