Guidance for manufacturers, importers and distributors.
Electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) is regulated to reduce the amount of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) incinerated or sent to landfill sites. Reduction is achieved through various measures which encourage the recovery, reuse and recycling of products and components.
The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2013 (as amended) are the underpinning UK legislation.
Responsibility for enforcing the regulations is shared by the Environment Agency and the Office for Product Safety and Standards (Safety & Standards).
What is covered?
The regulations cover EEE defined in 14 broad categories; whether the regulations extend to a particular manufactured item is dependent on the nature and functions of the item, and can be complex to determine.
The regulations do not apply to:
- filament light bulbs
- products for military use
- components included in finished products
- spare parts for the repair of finished products
- products integral to equipment that is out of scope
- large scale fixed installations that perform specific industrial operations
Who is responsible for compliance?
Responsibility for compliance is shared by the producer – the manufacturer or importer who places EEE on the UK market – and the distributor who makes EEE available on the UK market, extending to any means of distance selling. Producers may also be distributors, and can often be the same business; however private individuals importing products are not liable to comply with the regulations.
How do I comply?
EEE placed on the UK market must display a ‘crossed out wheeled bin’ diagram of appropriate size as per the BSI EN50419 standard, and producers should aim to improve the design of products to assist their recovery, reuse and recycling. (In relation to this, the regulations covering Ecodesign and the Restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances are also likely to apply.)
Within one year of placing new EEE on the UK market, public information must be made available on the reprocessing of EEE components and materials.
Producers must join a Producer Compliance Scheme (PCS), which works to meet the commitments of members under the regulations with regard to the recovery, reuse and recycling of WEEE. If a producer is based outside the UK, they must join a PCS or appoint a UK-based authorised representative before placing any EEE on the UK market.
The only exception is for small producers that have placed less than 5 tonnes of EEE on the UK market in the previous calendar year. They are able to register with the appropriate environmental regulator via the National Waste Packaging Database.
Whichever route is taken, the annual provision of information is required from producers. This includes the weight of EEE placed on the UK market in the previous calendar year for the 14 broad categories as applicable, for household and non-household products. (The weight of any batteries in this EEE must be subtracted and reported separately, under the regulations covering Batteries and waste batteries.)
Distributors (including retailers) are obligated to offer customers a free, accessible service to dispose of their old household EEE when selling a new version of the same item, regardless of whether a customer purchases in-store, online or by mail order. Distributors can do this by accepting WEEE at their premises, or at a designated collection facility with distributors arranging for the transport of WEEE to an Approved Authorised Treatment Facility (AATF), usually by a PCS. (Some WEEE is classified as hazardous waste in England and Wales and special waste in Scotland, and must be handled accordingly.)
If a retailer has sales area which is greater than 400 square metres, they are also obligated to take back very small WEEE from customers for free (WEEE that are less than 25cm on their longest side), without the requirement to purchase new EEE.
Distributors that do not elect to offer take back, must pay to join the Distributor Take back Scheme (DTS), which utilises the network of local authority recycling centres. There is a separate Distributor Take back Scheme for photovoltaic (solar) panels.
In either case, customers must have access to written information on what they should do with their WEEE. Producers and distributors must retain relevant documentation for at least four years.
Whilst the regulations for WEEE are extensive and detailed, the basic principles are that WEEE is processed at AATFs and producers pay for collection and treatment. AATFs operate under an environmental permit in England and Wales (or waste management licence in Northern Ireland and Scotland). Only AATFs are able to issue evidence notes proving that certain amounts of WEEE have been recovered and recycled, with reference to the 14 broad categories. The evidence notes enable a PCS to show the environmental regulator that it has met the obligations arising from the sales of its members.
What is the role of the Office for Product Safety and Standards?
Safety & Standards has been appointed by Defra to enforce the regulations in the UK in relation to:
- product marking and design
- distributor obligations
Other aspects of the regulations are enforced by the Environment Agency and its counterparts in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, in relation to the operation of:
- Producer Compliance Schemes (PCS)
- Approved Authorised Treatment Facilities (AATF)
- designated collection facilities
Where can I find out more?
Electrical and electronic equipment (EEE): producer responsibilities (Environment Agency)
EEE producers: how to accurately identify EEE (Environment Agency)
Distributor Take back Scheme (Valpak)
Distributor Take back Scheme (PV Cycle)
WEEE: apply for approval as a producer compliance scheme (Environment Agency)
WEEE: collecting used and waste electrical and electronic equipment (Environment Agency)
This gives guidance for designated collection facilities and charities.
WEEE: reuse and retreatment (Environment Agency)
This gives guidance on how to apply to be an AATF.
WEEE public registers (Environment Agency)
This lists EEE producers, PCSs, AATFs and approved exporters.
WEEE (European Commission)
This includes the WEEE Directive (2012/19/EU).
If you have a specific enquiry about compliance with the regulations in relation to the role of Safety & Standards, please use the contact details on our enforcement services page.
Subscribe to our free email alert service to keep up to date on the latest developments concerning the legislation that Safety & Standards enforces.