Ignorance is not bliss if you don’t comply with WEEE regulations
Every year an estimated 2 million tonnes of WEEE items are discarded by householders and companies in the UK. WEEE includes most products that have a plug or need a battery.
The Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations 2013 became law in the UK on the 1st of January 2014 and replaced the 2006 Regulations. The scope of the Regulations was extended from January 2019 to cover further categories of electric and electronic equipment (EEE).
These Regulations refer to the government’s pre-Brexit interpretation of the EU Directive 2012/19/EU. The purpose of the Directive was to set targets for the collection, recovery and recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment across Europe and divert volumes of waste electrical equipment from landfill. The legislation places the onus on producers to be responsible for their items when they become waste.
If your business uses electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) you should be aware of your responsibilities when you dispose of it. You must comply with your duty of care. This includes storing waste equipment safely, using a registered waste carrier and keeping a waste transfer note when equipment leaves your site.
Equipment bought by your business
If your business bought EEE before 13 August 2005, the waste is known as ‘historic WEEE’. If you are replacing the equipment, the producer of the replacement equipment must take your unwanted item if you request it, even if they are not the original manufacturer. If you’re not replacing the equipment, you need to make sure the WEEE is disposed of in accordance with the duty of care and hazardous waste legislation.
If your business bought equipment after 13 August 2005, the waste is known as ‘non-historic WEEE’. A bar underneath the crossed-out wheeled bin symbol indicates that the WEEE is non-historic. The EEE producer is responsible for financing the treatment, reprocessing and disposal of the equipment unless both parties agree to an alternative arrangement.
If you agree with a producer to make your own arrangements to deal with WEEE, you have a legal responsibility to make sure it is treated, recycled, recovered and disposed of correctly.
If your business rents or leases EEE the organisation that provides the equipment will normally be responsible for disposing of it.
When you buy new EEE you should keep the WEEE registration number of the equipment producer. Use this to contact the producer when you need to dispose of the products. The producer’s compliance scheme is responsible for the WEEE. The original producer can give you information on the take-back system available to you.
Your EEE suppliers and retailers can dispose of business WEEE for you, but they may charge you for this service.
Duty of Care
The code of practice (the Code) sets out practical guidance on how to meet your waste duty of care requirements. It is issued under section 34(7) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (the EPA) in relation to the duty of care set out in Section 34(1) of that Act.
This Code applies to you if you import, produce, carry, keep, treat, dispose of or, as a dealer or broker have control of, certain waste in England or Wales.
The hazardous waste regulations will also apply as WEEE is deemed to be hazardous waste unless processed to remove hazardous elements. The Hazardous Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2005 – detail the process of registration of hazardous waste producers and the system for recording the movement of hazardous waste using unique premise codes on Hazardous Waste Consignment Notes.
What happens if I don’t comply?
Failure to comply with the duty of care is an offence with no upper limit on the courts’ power to fine. In some instances, a fixed penalty notice may be issued for failure to comply with the duty of care in place of prosecution. The Code is admissible as evidence in legal proceedings for Section 34(1) offences and its rules must be taken into account where relevant to questions raised in the case.
How is it regulated?
The regulators for the duty of care are the Environment Agency (EA) in England.
As batteries contain dangerous materials and substances such as mercury, nickel, lead and more, used batteries are classed as hazardous waste and businesses must comply with various government legislations when disposing of potentially dangerous elements, such as the chemicals found in them. Recycling batteries is the best way to get rid of any old batteries from your business in a way that helps you protect the environment and uphold your corporate responsibilities.