Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)

The WEEE regulations aim to reduce the environmental impacts caused by end-of life electronic and electrical items.

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the UK and is increasing at a rate three times that of average municipal waste growth, with much of it destined for landfill.

A well-managed approach towards the disposal of WEEE is vital, as the sheer volume and the potentially hazardous nature of the waste represent a significant environmental issue if not regulated effectively.

What is waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)?

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is any electrical or electronic waste, whether whole or broken, that is destined for disposal.

The definition includes household appliances such as washing machines and cookers, IT and telecommunications equipment, electrical and electronic tools, toys and leisure equipment and certain medical devices.

How is waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) regulated?

The European Commission (EC) has introduced two directives in order to address the problems presented by WEEE – the Directive on Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment and the Directive on the Restriction of the use of certain Hazardous Substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS).

They are implemented in the UK through the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations 2013.

A comprehensive guidance produced by the Department for Business, Industry and Skills (DBIS) explains the regulations and their application in more detail.

How the regulations affect…producers

You’re a producer of EEE in the UK if you:

  • manufacture and sell EEE under your own brand in the UK;
  • resell equipment made by someone else under your own brand (if the maker’s brand appears on the equipment they are the producer);
  • import EEE on a commercial basis into the UK;
  • are established outside of the UK and supply EEE directly to the UK market by distance selling (eg online, mail order, phone).

You’re not a producer if you buy an item of EEE abroad and bring it into the UK for your own use.

If you manufacture, re-brand or import electronic or electrical equipment (EEE), such as household appliances, IT equipment or lighting equipment, you are a producer and must register annually. Registration depends on how much EEE you have put on the UK market in the previous year as follows:

  • If you put less than 5 tonnes of EEE on the UK market in a compliance year, you can register directly with the environmental regulator in your jurisdiction, which is SEPA in Scotland.
  • If you place more than 5 tonnes of EEE on the UK market, you must register with an approved producer compliance scheme  who will then take on your legal obligations to finance the collection, treatment, recovery and environmentally sound disposal of household WEEE collected in the UK. The scheme will purchase evidence of recycling on your behalf from an approved authorised treatment facility or approved exporter.

Links to lists of all UK WEEE compliance schemes, approved authorised treatment facilities and approved exporters can be found on the public register

The scope guidance will help you to determine the category in which your products fall under. You can also contact the Producer Compliance and Waste Shipment Unit for further help.

Further guidance  on how you register with the agencies as a small producer or with the compliance schemes. EEE producers must also:

  • mark products with the crossed out wheeled bin symbol  and a date mark;
  • provide information on reuse and environmentally sound treatment of the products and components (includes materials, dangerous substances and preparations) within one year of putting them on the market;
  • make sure that distributors you supply have your producer registration number;
  • keep records for at least 4 years of the amount of EEE put on the market by category.

Please note that the WEEE regulations apply to all producers regardless of their size, turnover, market share or number of employees.

There are a number of categories recognised under the regulations that an electrical product can fall into and there are also a number of exemptions.

The decision tree can help producers to decide whether or not a product is in scope of the regulations. Alternatively, it will advise if your product is exempt from the regulations. However, this is for initial advice only and we will make the final decision on categorisation and exempt status.

How the regulations affect…retailers or distributors

The UK WEEE Regulations place take-back obligations on retailers and other distributors who sell electrical and electronic equipment.

Retailers or distributors can choose one of three options with regards to meeting their take-back obligations:

Option 1 - Join the Distributor Take-back Scheme (DTS)

Retailers can join the Distributor Take-back Scheme (DTS) on payment of a retention fee, which goes towards funding a network of collection facilities where consumers can dispose of their household WEEE free of charge.

The DTS is operated by Valpak Retail WEEE Services. Their activities include collection and distribution of members’ funding, compilation and maintenance of the designated collection facility (DCF) register and the development and provision of consumer information to retail members to ensure that they meet all their obligations under the regulations.

Option 2 - Offer in-store take-back

Distributors must accept an item of household WEEE equivalent to the new item of household EEE sold to the consumer free of charge, irrespective of when and where the original item brought for disposal was originally purchased.

Where in-store take-back is offered, it must be for all types of EEE that the distributor sells.

Returned WEEE should be accepted within a reasonable period following a sale – best practice would be 28 days.

Free take-back is extended to distance sales and distance sellers should provide the customer with an alternative route for free take-back, such as the inclusion of a pre-addressed envelope for items for return.

Option 3 - Provide an alternative free take-back service, which is available and accessible to customer

WEEE deposited at such facilities must be managed in accordance with the regulations and other waste management legislation and local planning requirements.

Distributors should either establish their facilities as private DCFs or make arrangements with producer compliance schemes (PCSs) to return the WEEE directly into the system by delivery to an appointed approved authorised treatment facility (AATF). This requires agreement between a distributor and PCS.

How the regulations affect…local authorities

The UK WEEE regulations do not place collection and disposal obligations on local authorities, although it is widely accepted that most household WEEE is likely to be collected via the UK's network of civic amenity sites.

Local authorities have the opportunity to voluntarily sign up their civic amenity sites as designated collection facilities (DCFs). If they do, they will have to comply with the code of practice for DCFs, which requires minimum levels of separate storage of WEEE at the sites.

In return, they will receive some funding from the distributor take-back scheme (DTS) and their WEEE will be removed by producer compliance schemes for onward treatment, recycling and disposal without charge. Local authorities that volunteer their sites will no longer be financially responsible for treating or disposing of WEEE deposited at their sites.

Local authorities will also be able to count the recycling of WEEE towards meeting their recycling targets.

How the regulations affect…business or household end-users

The regulations contain specific responsibilities for businesses and other non-household users of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) on the disposal of electrical waste.

We have produced a comprehensive guidance providing further details on business and non-household users’ responsibilities.

As a household end user, you have an important role to play in the recycling of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE), although the WEEE regulations do not place legal obligations on you.

You are encouraged to discard your WEEE separately from other waste at the end of its life. The WEEE regulations put an obligation on the retailers and distributors of EEE to establish a UK-wide WEEE collection infrastructure, making it easy for you discard your WEEE.

Retailers and distributors are required to provide in-store take-back of old equipment when you purchase a replacement item, or alternatively direct you to a convenient WEEE collection point

Please note that you are not entitled to a free collection of your WEEE from your home.

How the regulations affect...WEEE treatment facilities and exporters

If you operate a WEEE authorised treatment facility (ATF) you can apply to become an approved authorised treatment facility (AATF) in order that you obtain the ability to issue WEEE evidence notes on obligated WEEE. As an AATF you must receive WEEE from a designated WEEE collection facility, or a system set up by a WEEE compliance scheme, and treat the WEEE in line with best available treatment recovery and recycling techniques (BATTRT).   If you export UK sourced WEEE to countries outside the European Economic Area for recovery, you must supply evidence that the environmental standards at each plant overseas site are broadly equivalent to those in the UK. Any company exporting waste must also comply with the Waste Shipment Regulations.

Guidance notes and application forms

Please contact  the Producer Compliance and Waste Shipment Unit for further guidance including the process for issuing of evidence and on WEEE protocols.

Contact us

Contact producer.responsibility@sepa.org.uk for further information.