A Guide to Compliance with the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive

Table of Contents

What Is WEEE?

WEEE, Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulation, is an EU directive that aims to improve the collection, treatment, and recycling processes of electronic and electrical equipment (EEE) that is no longer in use. Manufacturers of EEE must be compliant with WEEE.

The WEEE directive was created to address the negative environmental and human health impacts caused by waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), also known as e-waste, and to encourage proper recycling and re-use of EEE. 

Since WEEE’s creation in 2002, the directive has been updated to expand its scope.

Original WEEE Directive – The original directive, Directive 2002/96/EU, includes requirements companies must follow to comply with WEEE, and includes eleven categories of EEE regulated under WEEE.

WEEE Recast – The directive was updated in 2012, when Directive 2012/19/EU recategorized EEE into six categories

2018 Expansion – The scope of products regulated under WEEE was expanded in 2018 to include all EEE.

Objectives of WEEE

The overall goals of the WEEE directive are to reduce the negative environmental and health impacts of e-waste disposal and to increase sustainable use of resources. 

The directive works to:

  • Reduce the amount of e-waste that ends up in landfills
  • Encourage redesign of EEE so that it can be dismantled and properly disposed of
  • Increase re-use of WEEE and its components and materials

To achieve these goals, WEEE requires Member States to set specific targets for the amount (by weight) of EEE collected, recycled, and recovered. These targets differ by country.

Read more: What is WEEE?

Which Products Are Restricted by WEEE?

As of 2018, all EEE is included under WEEE, as every EEE device becomes WEEE at the end of its use. EEE is defined as “equipment which is dependent on electric currents or electromagnetic fields in order to work properly and equipment for the generation, transfer and measurement of such currents and fields” (Article 3 of Directive 2012/19/EU).

EEE subject to WEEE regulation is classified under six categories:

  1. Temperature exchange equipment
  2. Screens, monitors, and equipment containing screens with a surface larger than 100 cm2.
  3. Lamps
  4. Large equipment (any dimension larger than 50cm)
  5. Small equipment (no dimension larger than 50cm)
  6. Small IT and telecommunication equipment

Several specific types of EEE are exempt from WEEE regulation. Read more: WEEE Exemptions.

Who Has to Ensure WEEE Compliance?

All producers of EEE must comply with WEEE requirements. The directive defines producers as anyone who:

  • Manufactures and sells EEE under his/her own brand
  • Resells EEE produced by other suppliers under his/her own brand
  • Imports or exports EEE into an EU Member State
  • Sells EEE by “distance” (for example, over the internet) to Member States, even if this seller is in a different country.

WEEE places the responsibility of compliance on producers, not customers. While customers should still recycle their e-waste, they have no legal obligation.

Steps to Comply with WEEE

There are several steps producers must take to ensure they comply with WEEE.

1. Register with the Appropriate Authority

Producers must register and report the volume of EEE placed on the EU market to the correct governing body (which varies by country).

Producers of EEE must meet the recycling targets determined by each Member State. Reporting the volume of EEE placed on the market allows Member States to track WEEE compliance.

A list of information to be included in the registration can be found in Annex X of the WEEE directive (Directive 2012/19/EU).

EEE producers that place more than 5 tonnes of EEE on the EU market must register with a WEEE compliance scheme, often referred to as a Producer Compliance Scheme (PCS). The producer pays a fee to the PCS, and in turn, the PCS helps ensure proper collection and recycling of EEE.

Producers that place less than 5 tonnes of EEE on the market can register with a PCS or simply register with the local Environmental Agency.

The amount of all WEEE collected must also be reported annually.

2. Provide Information to Customers

Proper labeling and information helps customers to properly dispose of their EEE products. WEEE requires that all compliant EEE be marked with the “WEEE symbol,” a recycling bin that is crossed out. If the product is too small to show the symbol, then it should be included in the device’s user manual. 

In some countries, the following information is also required:

  • Information on which take back recycling service the producer provides
  • Information on how the customer can reuse or recycle the product
  • Why WEEE must be separated from other types of waste
  • The negative impacts of not recycling EEE

3. Provide Information to Recyclers

Producers must provide recycling processors with the necessary information on how to recycle the EEE product or prepare the product to be reused. As many EEE products are composed of multiple materials, it is important for producers to provide information to recyclers on how to properly dispose of all the product’s components as well.

Information to be provided to recyclers includes:

  • Tools needed to dismantle the product
  • How to dismantle the product
  • How to remove batteries
  • How to process the metals included to be reused or recycled
  • Recommendations on how materials used in the EEE should be recovered or reused

4. Create an E-waste Recycling Program

Producers must offer their customers a method to recycle EEE at the end of its lifecycle, which includes creating or financing a system for customers to recycle old EEE. These programs are often referred to as Compliance and Take Back schemes. 

The take back scheme may entail a collection service or a drop-off location for used electronics. The recycling program must be free of charge to the customer. The producer can collect WEEE itself or can contract a collection company.

Producers must report the weight of all WEEE recycled through their take back system to the relevant authority. This can be done directly by the producers, or through the collection company. This reporting helps governing bodies track the success of WEEE, as they can compare the amount of EEE a producer puts on the market to how much of it gets recycled.

Penalties of WEEE Noncompliance

Manufacturers will face penalties for noncompliance with RoHS. These penalties may include financial and legal consequences, as well as the larger costs associated with noncompliance.

Financial Consequences

Manufacturers may face fines for placing EEE on the market that does not comply with the WEEE directive. The amount of the fine differs by member state, with some countries having higher maximum fines than others. 

Producers that do not comply with WEEE may also face legal consequences such as criminal prosecution or even imprisonment. This legal process is time consuming and costly, and can also have negative impacts on the brand’s reputation. 

Larger Costs

Failure to comply with WEEE allows for harmful e-waste to enter landfills and create negative impacts on the environment and human health. WEEE works to protect against environmental harm and disease by keeping e-waste out of landfills, and ensuring products are recycled safely and effectively.

As of January 2021, Regulation (EU) 2019/1020 created stronger controls to enforce the WEEE directive and other EU laws. The new Regulation increases penalties for noncompliance and creates more stringent enforcement. The Regulation is particularly focused on making sure enforcement is extended to EEE sold online. The Regulation also aims to increase cooperation between Member State market surveillance authorities in order to let fewer noncompliant producers fall through the cracks.

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