WEEE - History

The new rules of the revised directive on WEEE (2012/19/EU ) introduced higher collection targets in the EU. Member states were granted 18 months (until February 2014) to transpose the directive into national law. The details are contained in a compromise text agreed in mid-December 2011 by negotiators from the European Parliament and member states.

Strong incentives are granted to member states to ensure a high level of separate collection of WEEE and the ambitions collection level of 85% to be met.

The Commission has also been requested to develop a harmonised calculation method for the collection target on the basis of the amount of WEEE generated per member state three years after entry into force.

Furthermore, six product categories have been introduced, with a dedicated category for small IT and telecommunication equipment, as well as the possibility of setting individual collection rates for this category in the future.

It was also agreed that consumers need to be better informed about WEEE and used EEE deposit places and that retailers need to increase access to collection points and encourage consumers to return small appliances.

Tackling illegal shipments

Stricter provisions have also been adopted with the aim of tackling illegal shipments of WEEE which are declared as EEE, such as:

  • the request for member states to focus their inspections on used EEE; and
  • the imposition of the burden of proof on parties shipping used EEE, in the form of documentation and specific packaging and stacking requirements.

The above mentioned provisions are meant to contribute to the efficient and sustainable use of critical raw materials and support the EU's claim to move towards a recycling society.

WEEE Directive 2002/96/EC, effective 27 January, 2003

The directive is designed to tackle the fast increasing waste stream of electrical and electronic (WEEE) in order to limit the amount of WEEE going to landfill and to encourage high rates of recycling by regulating the collection and treatment methods of WEEE.

Producers are held responsible for taking back and recycling electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) in an environmentally more efficient way, which takes waste management aspects fully into account. Consumers will be able to return their equipment free of charge.

The restriction of certain hazardous substances (RoHS) in electrical and electronic equipment is regulated in Directive 2002/95/EC and requires the substitution of various heavy metals (lead, mercury, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium) and brominated flame retardants (polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) or polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE)) in new electrical and electronic equipment put on the market from 1 July, 2006.

Key points of Directive 2002/96/EC:

  • The Member States are responsible for organising schemes to collect waste from households
  • Producers have to bear the cost for collection treatment and recovery five years after the Directive comes into force
  • The minimum rate of separate collection is 4 kg/year/inhabitant
  • The pre-treatment of waste is mandatory – including the removal of mercury-containing components (batteries etc.)
  • Targets for mandatory reuse / recycling are 50 per cent to 90 per cent by weight per product by 2006.

Annex 1 covers several categories of electrical and electronic equipment:

  • large and small household appliances
  • IT & telecommunications equipment
  • consumer equipment
  • lighting equipment
  • electrical and electronic tools
  • toys
  • medical equipment systems
  • monitoring and control instruments
  • automatic dispensers
  • + components (e.g. transistors, tubes, circuit boards), sub-assembles (e.g. shelves in refrigerators), and consumables (e.g. batters, toner cartridges)

Historic and Future WEEE

WEEE products are also categorised depending on when they were place onto the market.

Products placed onto the market before 13 August 2005 are called 'historic'.

Products place onto the market after 13 August 2005 are called 'future'.

Producers of Equipment

Under the WEEE Regulations a 'producer' is a company that manufactures, imports or re-brands electrical and electronic equipment (EEE).

Each producer is responsible for his products. Some of the EU Member States have established national producer registries. Each country regulates separately how and by when the registration has to take place.

A producer is also a company which sells a product under its own brand which has been produced by another company. Also an importer or exporter is a producer under WEEE. Distributors and retailers who sell goods of an unregistered producer are automatically taking over his responsibilities.

Provide Information

The producer or importer must provide the environmental regulators in each EU country in which they produce / import / sell certain information on new EEE to assist treatment and re-use. This includes information on the components and materials in the EEE, and the location of any hazardous substances.

Marking of Products

All goods need be marked with the crossed out wheeled bin symbol. This will help separating WEEE from other waste streams. It also needs to include a producer identification mark and to show that the product was placed on the market after 13 August 2005.

Collection and Treatment of WEEE

A producer/importer is financially responsible for collecting, treating, recovering and disposing of an equivalent amount of WEEE that is calculated according to the amount of EEE that is being produced by a company.

All cost for the dismantling, recovery, and in particular the reuse and recycling of WEE must be arranged and met.

All procedures must be carried out in an environmentally sound way.

All separately collected WEEE has to be taken to approved authorised treatment facilities, where WEEE can be treated safely prior to recycling or disposal.

All producers share responsibility for historic WEEE, depending on their market share. This means, a company is not only responsible for its own products but also for all historic WEEE. The collective producer responsibility for historic WEEE will end in 2013.

The EU Member States have implemented various take back systems. Please refer to the environmental agencies in each country for detailed information.