The long-awaited Weee directive - on the disposal of waste electronic and electrical material - will be implemented in full next month. But what are the implications for FM?
by Mark Carter
15 June 2007
As with much recent legislation that affects FM, the Weee directive has suffered deferment and delay. It finally came into force on 2 January, with full implementation confirmed for 1 July. Although a long time coming, many are still unsure what it is, how it may affect them as FMs and what they need to do.
The following offers a brief outline from the business-users point of view. However, it is not exhaustive, and if you have any doubts seek expert help.
What is or isn't Weee?
So, what is it? It's waste electrical or electronic equipment (Weee) that runs on less than 1,000 volt AC (or 1,500 volt DC). This is split into 10 main categories (see box). The regulations do not apply to large-scale, stationary industrial tools, nor to spare parts, as they are not products by themselves. Therefore, a spare for a photocopier is not Weee, but the complete machine is. Such products are identified with a 'crossed out wheelie bin' symbol.
Aims of the directive
Weee often contains hazardous substances - lead or cadmium - and
is the fastest growing waste stream in the EU, reportedly growing by 8 per cent per year, and totals an average of 14kg a person, 90 per cent of which goes to landfill or incineration. The main aim of the directive is to address the environmental impact of Weee by reducing the amount going to landfill or incineration. It also aims to increase rates of re-use, recovery, recycling and environmentally sound disposal.
To achieve this, it requires all manufacturers and producers to take responsibility for what happens to the products they sell at the end of their lives. Note that it states 'sell' and not 'make'. Weee was conceived to improve the environmental performance of all operators involved in the life cycle of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE).
Weee should be treated as part of your larger waste-management and recycling system. First, all Weee should be identified, collected and stored separately. Then, there are three main courses of action:
Reuse, re-sell or donate it
Take it back - if you replace EEE purchased after 13 August 2005 with equivalent equipment, you can get the suppliers of the new item to take away the old for free of charge.
DIY - if you are unable to trace the original provider; have historic Weee (purchased before 13 August 2005); or have equipment that is not being replaced, you will have to arrange (and pay for) disposal yourself, using a registered waste contractor.
It may be possible to negotiate with your supplier for the disposal of any additional Weee that is over-and-above the direct equivalent replacement number. If agreed, it may be convenient, but not necessarily cost effective. If your company produces substantial amounts of Weee, it may be worth dealing directly with an authorised treatment facility (ATF) for treatment, recycling or environmentally sound disposal.
For many commercial businesses, the most common approach is to use a registered waste contractor. However, this can be difficult for small companies and those producing very little waste. Contactors may have minimum weight restrictions that mean you have to store Weee a long time between collections. One possible solution is to combine with others is a similar position and deal with the contactors as a local co-operative.
For the record
Businesses are also required to obtain and keep records that their Weee was treated and/or disposed of in an environmentally sound way.
Don't forget that you need to communicate the policy and any changes regarding the collection and disposal of Weee to all your staff. In addition, prior to disposal, ensure any corporate data held on the equipment is erased.
Mark Carter is marketing manager
Large household appliances
(for example, a dishwasher)
Small household appliances
(such as a coffee maker)
IT and telecommunications equipment
Consumer equipment (such as TVs, videos, hi-fi)
Electrical and electronic tools (with the exception of large-scale stationary industrial tools)
Lighting equipment. Note that household luminaries are not covered by Weee, but in commercial premises they do come within the scope of the regulations. However, filament light bulbs are exempt
Toys, leisure and sports equipment (eg running machines)
Medical devices (with the exception of all implanted and infected products)
Monitoring and controlling instruments