Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)
Find out more about your WEEE responsibilities
What is it?
Update on The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive
The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive) was introduced into UK law in January 2007 by the Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment Regulations 2006. It aims to encourage people to reuse and recycle electronic items in order to reduce the amount of new electronic equipment entering the market every day. The directive also strives to ensure that companies which work closely with technology improve their environmental record.
This directive concerns businesses that supply, manufacture, use or recover and recycle electronics. Businesses that import, rebrand or manufacture new electronic equipment are extremely likely to be bound by the United Kingdom’s WEEE regulation. In this case, the business has to register on a producer compliance scheme. Sellers and companies that dispose of electronic equipment also have some WEEE responsibilities.
At the beginning of 2012, the European Parliament has passed a new law that serves as an update to the WEEE Directive. It aims to significantly decrease the instances of dumping electronic goods in landfills, and has set new targets for EU member states. By 2016, 45 tonnes of waste will have to be collected for every 100 tonnes of new equipment available for sale in EU member states. By 2019, this figure will increase to 65 tonnes or 85 per cent of electronic waste generated by each member state.
The directive, which is expected to become law in 2014, will require large retailers offering electronic equipment to accept small unwanted electronics even if nothing is purchased in return. For bigger electronic assets such as refrigerators, the manufacturing company will be fully responsible for the disposal. Exporters of electronic good will have to account for the shipping of items set for recycling by keeping appropriate records.
Situations when electronic equipment is considered waste:
Household equipment is considered waste when a person takes action with the clear intention of disposing of it. Such actions may include putting the item in a bin, arranging a collection of the unwanted item, or taking in to a specialist store with the intention of trading. If electronic equipment is brought into a shop to be discarded by their owners, the item becomes waste and the retailer is considered the waste producer. Items that are set aside with the intention to be reused or repurposed cease to be treated as waste only when fully separated from electronic items that will be discarded.
Data Protection Act 1998
The Data Protection Act is the main piece of legislation that governs the protection of personal data in the UK. The Act was updated in 1998 to include specific provision for electronic data and set out eight principles of data protection. Of major note should be the legal responsibility for the Data Controller within an organisation to adhere to these principles - including the secure removal of all electronic data from equipment entering the public domain. Whilst the tangible penalties can be quantified and are often fierce, it is often the litigation that results from negligent behaviour relating to data security that causes the most damage to the reputation of a business and this is much more difficult to measure.
Environmental Protection Act 1990
The Environmental Protection Act establishes the 'duty of care' in relation to the handling of all waste, including IT waste. This legislative measure lays down that the person or persons responsible for waste arising from a business must ensure that disposal takes place in an environmentally sound and ethical manner. Typically this includes ensuring that waste equipment is passed only to an Authorised Waste Carrier and handled only by Authorised Waste Management facilities. Both individuals and company representatives can face serious legal consequences should they ignore this obligation.