Prior to the implementation of the WEEE directive in the UK, waste electronic and electrical equipment was disposed of in the household (municipal) waste stream. Exclusions applied to electrical and electronic equipment that was deemed hazardous. Hazardous wastes are derived (issued with a universal EU descriptor) from the European Waste Catalogue, which denotes wastes with a six digit number in three sets of two. Hazardous wastes are denoted with an asterisk at the end of the number. Hazardous electronic wastes comprise:
- Uninterruptable power supplies, lead-acid batteries
- Cathode ray tubes (televisions, computer monitors)
- Fluorescent tubes, backlights to laptop screens, thin-film transistors
- Electrical/electronic equipment containing polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)
- Fridges and freezers, due to chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), an ozone depleting substance
WEEE that is delivered to household waste recycling centres (HWRC), also known as designated collection facilities (DCFs), is collected by or delivered to approved authorised treatment facilities (AATFs). The waste electrical and electronic equipment is then weighed and categorized in accordance with the directive.
Post re-processing (recycling), total volumes of each category are reported to the producer compliance scheme and the reprocessor is reimbursed accordingly. Totals of obligated WEEE for all AATFs are collated by the environment agency on a quarterly basis and reported to the EU.
Historically, there were problems with the implementation of the producer compliance schemes due to a "double counting" and reporting of reprocessed WEEE to producer compliance schemes. This arose where obligated WEEE was partially treated by the first AATF to receive the waste, prior to it being passed onto a second AATF for further treatment. Both the first and second AATF would then claim against the same waste electronics, resulting in a "net debt" against the wastes being treated.
Additional legislation that applies is:
- The Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) Regulations 1991
- Hazardous Waste Regulations (England & Wales) 2005
- Waste Framework Directive, or Directive 2008/98/EC
The management of WEEE is applied via the waste hierarchy, employing the 3 Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle. In January 2012, proposals were debated by the European Parliament to recast the WEEE Directive. The proposals included increasing recycling rates. The recast directive no longer included reuse of WEEE via repair and refurbishment.
Read more about this topic: Waste Electrical And Electronic Equipment Directive