The WEEE Symbol
When you want to dispose of electrical or electronic items you will often hear WEEE discussed in relation to recycling, but what does it mean to the average person?
WEEE stands for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment.
All electrical and electronic waste can be disposed of via your local council's recycling facilities, either through your kerbside recycling collection, or at a local recycling centre.
For consumers, the WEEE Directive means that in many cases customers can return electrical and electronic items, as well as used batteries, to retailers for recycling. In the case of larger items such as washing machines and fridges, retailers have to offer to take old appliances away for recycling when you buy a new item. However they can charge for this service.
WEEE is an excellent source of resources - almost 80% of the materials used to make an electrical item can be reused.
Everything from the plastics and ferrous metals, to precious metals such as gold, silver, platinum, and rare earths such as lanthanum and neodymium, can be recovered from your old TVs, computors and kitchen appliances.
In particular reusing these rare and precious metals means that less needs to be mined.
The WEEE directive came into force fully in 1st July 2007. The WEEE directive puts the responsibility for disposal of electrical equipment with the manufacturers of electrical and electronic equipment, and requires them to dispose of unwanted items in an environmentally-friendly way.
There are 10 different categories of equipment that WEEE relates to:-
As an ordinary consumer you do not have to worry about complying with WEEE regulations; the onus is upon businesses involved in the manufacture, distribution, storage, retailing and disposal of the equipment to be in compliance.
The directive states that consumers will be able to return their equipment free of charge for recycling.
Therefore retailers selling electrical goods must provide their customers with a clear explanation of how they can return their items which must be disposed of within the WEEE regulations - whether the old equipment was bought from them or not.
The WEEE Symbol, which is a picture of a bin crossed out means that electrical and electronic items should not be disposed of in your dustbin or wheelie bin, but should be recycled.
As consumers however we must be responsible for ensuring that we dispose of items in an environmentally friendly manner. We can either by take up a retailers offer of accepting our unwanted electrical or electronic items, disposing of them at our nearest recycling centre or putting them out with our kerbside collection where this is permitted (check with your local council). Items will then be disposed of in accordance with the WEEE regulations.
For the most up to date UK government guidance on WEEE regulations visit GOV.UK.