What is the WEEE directive?

Adopted in the UK in 2007, the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Directive is an EU wide directive designed to make manufacturers and importers (the ‘producer’) responsible for the cost of disposal of redundant equipment. The Directive sets targets for recovery and recycling across ten categories of products, increasing over the first few years of implementation.

Recycling of WEEE is a specialist part of the waste and recycling industry. It is a rapidly growing sub-sector due largely to the implementation of the original WEEE Directive in the UK by the WEEE Regulations 2006, With that came the associated requirements for the recovery, reuse, recycling and treatment of WEEE.

The Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations 2013  became law in the UK on the 1st of January 2014 and replaced the 2006 Regulations. The new Regulations transpose the main provisions of Directive 2012/19/EU on WEEE which recasts the previous Directive 2002/96/EC. These regulations also provide for a wider range of products to be covered by the Directive with effect from 1st January 2019.

Every year an estimated 2 million tonnes of WEEE items are discarded by householders and companies in the UK. WEEE includes most products that have a plug or need a battery. There are ten broad categories of WEEE currently outlined within the Regulations, namely:

  • Large household appliances e.g. fridges, cookers, microwaves, washing machines and dishwashers
  • Small household appliances e.g. vacuum cleaners, irons, toasters and clocks
  • IT and telecommunications equipment e.g. personal computers, copying equipment, telephones and pocket calculators
  • Consumer equipment e.g. radios, televisions, hi-fi equipment, camcorders ad musical instruments
  • Lighting equipment e.g. straight and compact fluorescent tubes and high intensity discharge lamps
  • Electrical and electronic tools – e.g. drills, saws and sewing machines, electric lawnmowers
  • Toys, leisure and sports equipment e.g. electric rains, games consoles and running machines
  • Medical devices e.g. (non infected) dialysis machines, analysers, medical freezers and cardiology equipment
  • Monitoring and control equipment e .g. smoke detectors, thermostats and heating regulators
  • Automatic dispensers e.g. hot drinks dispensers and money dispensers

The scope of the Regulations will be extended from January 2019 to cover further categories of electric and electronic equipment (EEE).