How does the WEEE directive affect you?

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is the fastest growing waste stream in the UK. according to the Environment Agency.

Rules on WEEE, or e-waste, are designed to minimise the impact the ever-increasing amount of these materials on the environment, while encouraging more sustainable production and consumption.

With the growing amount of discarded electronics in the UK, under the extended responsibility obligations, producers are required to finance the collection, treatment and recovery of WEEE.

WEEE regulations cover what happens to a wide range of devices like fridges, computers and mobile phones when they reach the end of their working life.  The rules are important because these types of electrical waste contain a mix of materials, and some of these are hazardous, causing major environmental and health problems if not managed properly.

Rare resources recycled

What’s more, there are rare and expensive resources that can be recycled and re-used if the e-waste is effectively managed, all of which contributes to the growth of the circular economy that is essential for sustainable business.

The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations (S.I. 2006:3289) and the WEEE (Amendment) Regulations 2007 (S.I. 3454) stem from an EU Directive of the same name.

The regulations require all producers to join a compliance scheme that manages the process on their behalf, and schemes such as Recolight – which works on behalf of the lighting industry. The producer funds the collection, recycling and environmentally safe disposal.

However, the end user has ultimate responsibility for making sure the product is recycled when it reaches end of life.

The original EU Directive requires the separate collection and proper treatment of WEEE and sets targets for their collection as well as for their recovery and recycling. It sets parameters that make it more difficult for exporters to disguise illegal shipments of WEEE and it aims to reduce administrative complexity through harmonisation of national EEE registers and of the reporting format.

What WEEE regulations cover

WEEE goods have the crossed wheelie bin symbol on them as a reminder that they have to be disposed of in a sustainable way and not go to landfill.

Lighting equipment:

The regulations cover most of the light bulbs used today both in offices, homes and outdoor applications, only filament lamps are excluded.

  • Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs)
  • Fluorescent tubes
  • Metal halide lamps
  • Mercury and blended lamps
  • Sodium lamps (high and low-pressure)
  • LEDs and organic LEDs (OLEDs).

Electronic and electrical equipment

  • Consumer equipment, such as radios, hi-fi equipment, electronic musical instruments.
  • Large household appliances – white goods.
  • Small household appliances – kettles, toasters, hairdryers, irons, clocks, sewing machines.
  • IT and telecommunications equipment – computers/accessories, calculators, phones. Monitors excluded.
  • Electrical and electronic tools – drills, lawnmowers, welding equipment.
  • Toys, leisure and sports equipment – video games, electric train sets, slot machines.
  • Medical devices – dialysis machines, ventilators, radiotherapy equipment.
  • Monitoring and control instruments – smoke detectors, thermostats, other instruments.
  • Automatic dispensers – drinks, food & money dispensers.
  • Display equipment – TVs and monitors
  • Cooling equipment  –  refrigeration & AC.
  • Photovoltaic panels.

See the Environment Agency website for a full list.

The Environment Agency for England and Wales, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency are responsible for ensuring that all eligible producers and suppliers register with a compliance scheme.


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