In the spirit of Sustainable Waste and Resource Management principles we should first consider if the waste can be Eliminated, Reduced – or in the case of WEEE REUSED – in the first instance can the item be safely re-used, donated or passed on to another user if in working order?
Waste Electrical / Electronic Equipment (WEEE) is ANYTHING that has a PLUG or a BATTERY and is at the end of its useful life – and you can recycle these items for FREE thanks to the WEEE legislation. Therefore there is no longer any reason for people to dump their broken or obsolete electrical or electronic equipment on the roadside or indeed in their household bin(s).
Examples of WEEE are:
- Kitchen appliances – washing machines, dishwashers, cookers, microwave, refrigerators (fridge), freezers, kettles, toasters, heaters, irons, fluorescent lamps…
- Electronic appliances – televisions, computer screens, laptops, printers, obsolete games consoles, keyboards, electronic toys, radios, hairdryers, phones…
- Garden / DIY – electric & battery tools, drills, saws, monitoring instruments, electric lawnmowers, strimmers…
- Batteries – both rechargeable and single use domestic batteries, car batteries
How does WEEE work?
When you buy a new electric or electronic item, you will pay a small charge shown separately on your invoice / receipt as “Producer Recycling Fund”. This charge is designed to pay for the disposal of your newly bought item when it becomes obsolete or needs to be replaced.
The Retailer will provide for free of charge in-store “take back” of household WEEE on a one-for-one / like-for-like basis on the sale of a new like product (i.e. Toaster for Toaster, Fridge for Fridge, and Television for Television etc.).
Some retailers – particularly of large household equipment such as fridge/freezers will collect your old appliance when delivering your new one – the old appliance must be cleaned and disconnected from any utilities and ready for collection. However if the customer is not in a position to exchange any item of WEEE at the time of purchasing a new product, they may return the obsolete item within 15 days of the date of sale or if delivered within 30 days of the date of delivery.
If you have equipment which needs recycling but you are not purchasing a replacement item, they can be returned to a local official recycling centre. Some Retailers offer special “take-back” events where they take-back your electric / electronic equipment without the requirement for a purchase – these are usually well advertised and often organised in conjunction with the Local Authority.
Some Ground Rules regarding equipment being returned:
- Equipment should not pose a health & safety risk to those who will be handling them;
- Equipment must be clean – i.e. fridge/freezers should be empty and fully defrosted, deep-fat fryers must be free of oil, dust bags must be removed from vacuum cleaners;
- Computers / phones etc. should have their memory / storage wiped clean (for your own security);
- If the WEEE is contaminated – resulting in a potential health and safety risk, please contact your local authority for advice as in such instances it is possible that specific storage and / or transport regulations would apply.
Batteries – Look out for the battery boxes in stores near you.
All shops / retailers which sell batteries must take back your waste batteries for recycling and this is regardless of whether you purchase anything in their shop, however they are only required to take back batteries of a similar size to those they sell. So if they sell household batteries such as AA, AAA they must take back these type of domestic battery.
Don’t place leaking batteries in the recycling box – these are a hazard because the chemicals leaking from batteries can be dangerous to both your health and the health of the employees who work in the shop or recycling centre. Please contact your local authority for advice how to safely dispose of or recycle leaking batteries.
However larger batteries such car batteries must be brought back to a garage / motor factor (although your garage is not obliged to take back domestic batteries unless they sell them), and any specialised batteries will need to be recycled through a business who stock that type of battery.
Alternatively you can return your batteries to official recycling centres and other authorised collection points.
The WEEE recycling initiative is good for you, good for our environment, and good for the retailer.
Do not Dump WEEE
Because many waste electrical and electronic equipment contain hazardous materials which pose a threat to both human health and the health of our environmental, householders are no longer permitted to place waste electrical and electronic equipment in household bins. When you recycle such equipment it will be sorted, de-contaminated, disassembled and stored pending final treatment and recycling.
Because the process is FREE there should no longer be an excuse to dump fridges, cookers and other appliances on the roadsides.
Is there anything I can’t recycle as part of the WEEE Directive?
Contaminated WEEE presenting a health / safety risk – in this instance please contact your local authority for advice how to safely dispose of or recycle the item.
If your retailer does not take back WEEE, you should contact the Environment Section of the local authority where the retailer is based.
The WEEE Directive is about protecting our environment and it makes it easier for YOU to recycle obsolete Electrical & Electronic Equipment.