Out-Law Guide 2 min. read

The WEEE Regulations: a brief introduction

This guide is based on UK law.

The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations implement the EU WEEE Directive and affect producers of most types of ICT equipment.

In the UK, Government estimates show that we throw away over two million tonnes of electrical waste each year, mostly into landfill. The WEEE Regulations aim to reduce the amount of electrical and electronic waste going to landfill sites and improve recovery and recycling rates of these products.

The WEEE Regulations apply to all businesses that import, manufacture or re-brand electrical and electronic equipment in the UK (known as 'producers'). The Environment Agency suggests steps to follow to find out if you are governed by the WEEE Regulations. The WEEE Regulations also affect businesses that sell and distribute EEE.

In 2010, amending regulations came into force with a view to streamlining WEEE regulatory powers and to remove the administrative burden on business.

WEEE regulation for IT service providers and manufacturers

If you import, rebrand or manufacture ICT equipment, you will almost certainly need to comply with the WEEE Regulations.

If you are a 'producer', you must:

(a) join one of the approved compliance schemes;

(b) mark your products with the crossed-out wheelie bin symbol, producer mark and date mark; and

(c) plan for and finance the collection, treatment, recycling and disposal of your products at the end of their lifecycle. Your compliance scheme should be able to advise you on this.

In addition to the above responsibilities for new products, producers must also finance the disposal of old products (bought before 13th August 2005) if they provide domestic customers with a replacement fulfilling the same function as the WEEE, regardless of whether they were the original manufacturer.

However, the WEEE Regulations allow business users and their manufacturers/ distributors to agree alternative arrangements. For example, the end user may agree to bear all or part of the cost of safe disposal and replacement of WEEE products rather than the manufacturers/distributors. This will be an issue in any negotiations for ICT, particularly large outsourcing or hardware refresh deals.

End users

Much of the EEE used in your business is likely to be subject to the WEEE Regulations. Equipment at the end of its life that was bought before 13th August 2005 must be disposed of at your own expense (subject to the following paragraph) in accordance with the relevant law, including:

(a) the WEEE Regulations;

(b) your legal duty of care for waste; and

(c) the Hazardous Waste Regulations.

This expense is normally avoided if you replace the equipment with new equipment that performs the same function. If you are commercially buying ICT from a service provider or hardware seller, they should be providing you with information on how you can dispose of the equipment at the end of its life.

You may find the service provider/seller raising the cost of WEEE compliance during negotiations. The WEEE Regulations do allow business-to-business transactions to agree that the user will bear part or all of the costs of compliance. If you are unhappy with the terms being offered, you can look for alternative forms of collection. There are charities, for example, that collect some WEEE for re-use.


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