It's twelve months since the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (Weee) Directive became law, but how familiar are we with the controls and requirements it introduced?
by Bryan Neill
24 January 2008
After many delays the Weee directive finally became law in January 2007 and was fully implemented by July. With it cames raft of new responsibilities for building operators and estates managers, in that just about every organisation produces Weee in form or another.
Weee includes any item of equipment that has a power supply- everything from copiers and printers to light sources. A crossed-out wheelie bin symbol (see right) on recently manufactured goods denotes that they fall under the Hazardous Waste directive and should not be disposed of through the normal waste stream. Weee is easy to identify- essentially, if it uses electricity, it's covered.
Many such items can be disposed of relatively easily, using local facilities, suitably qualified waste management contractors or through 'take-back' schemes operated by dealers, distributors and manufacturers. However, there are a number of such items that are also covered under the Hazardous Waste regulations- including the lighting lamps and tubes (fluorescent, sodium, metal halide and mercury vapour) used by just about every commercial, industrial and public sector organisation.
This classification also covers lead acid batteries, refrigeration and cathode ray tube (CRT) and flat-screen computer monitors.
We should all now be aware that electrical and electronic waste cannot be disposed of through the normal waste streams. Even hazardous landfills cannot accept such waste without expensive pre-treatment. Consequently, the only viable option for this waste is for it to be sent for recycling to an approved Weee recycler. It should also be noted that it is the responsibility of the building operator to ensure disposal complies with legislation and that a full audit trail can be provided.
Another significant element of the Hazardous Waste regulations for building operators is that any site producing more than 200kg per year of any type of hazardous waste has to register with the Environment Agency as a hazardous waste producer. Sites receive a site registration code and waste contractors are not allowed to collect waste from any site that does not have this code.
To put 200kg of waste into perspective, this constitutes around 500 fluorescent tubes, or around 15 CRT monitors Ð therefore many buildings need to register as hazardous waste producers.
The Weee directive also has implications for FMs who are involved in managing new build or refurbishment construction projects. According to government statistics, more than 70 million tonnes of waste is produced by the construction industry every year. Some of it canÕt be avoided but, amazingly, an average of 13 per cent of all the materials delivered to site never get used.
This level of wastage is invariably the result of bad planning. Until the Weee directive came into force, such waste would have been thrown into a skip but now any Weee items must be separated from other waste if large fines are to be avoided. And in many cases the responsibility is part of the project management role.
It may be necessary to separate the Weee further; into types of electrical items to be collected by different recycling specialists, for instance.
As noted earlier, discharge light sources are classified as hazardous waste and present a particular challenge to recyclers (see box).
Underlying these issues is a need for all involved in the management of buildings to become more 'waste aware'. It's also important to devise procedures that address all legislative and environmental requirements, ensure they are understood and are fully documented.
Bryan Neill is managing director of Mercury Recycling
Discharge lamp disposal
Discharge lamps are one of the most difficult types of electrical and electronic waste to deal with. Contractors must be able to:
Provide copies of all environmental licences, including vehicle licences, and appropriate insurance certificates
Supply purpose designed storage containers for all lamps and tubes
Use trained staff and suitable transportation, with self-contained lifting equipment
Remove all mercury vapours and mercury containing phosphors from the lamps
Collect mercury vapour from the lamps
Strip all mercury phosphors from the lamp glass
Distil recovered phosphor to separate liquid mercury for reuse
Recover ferrous and non ferrous metals for reuse
Provide a detailed audit trail for the full process and material destinations