Exemptions from 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.

All producers of EEE must comply with WEEE requirements. Read more: WEEE Compliance

Which Products Are Restricted by WEEE?

As of 2018, all EEE is included under WEEE (except for those specifically exempted, listed below), 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 (eg. refrigerators and freezers)
  2. Screens, monitors, and equipment containing screens with a surface larger than 100 cm2 (eg. televisions, laptops, LCD photo frames)
  3. Lamps (Straight fluorescent lamps, Compact fluorescent lamps, Fluorescent lamps, High intensity discharge lamps – including pressure sodium lamps and metal halide lamps, Low pressure sodium lamps, LED)
  4. Large equipment (any dimension larger than 50cm) (eg. washing machines, large copiers and printers)
  5. Small equipment (no dimension larger than 50cm) (eg. vacuum cleaners, microwaves, musical instruments)
  6. Small IT and telecommunication equipment (eg. cell phones, GPS devices)

Which Products Are Exempt from WEEE?

The Directive exempts several EEE types from WEEE requirements, including:

  1. Equipment that’s necessary to national security and defense, including arms, munitions and war material intended for specifically military purposes
  2. Equipment that is crucial to the functioning of another type of EEE exempt from WEEE
  3. Filament bulbs
  4. Equipment designed to be sent into space
  5. Large-scale stationary industrial tools
  6. Large-scale fixed installations, except any equipment which is not specifically designed and installed as part of those installations (eg. HVAC or robotic equipment)
  7. Vehicles used to transport goods or people, excluding electric two-wheel vehicles
  8. Non-road mobile machinery exclusively for professional use (eg. construction machinery)
  9. Equipment specifically designed solely for the purposes of research and development that is only made available on a business-to-business basis
  10. Active implantable medical devices, as well as medical devices and in vitro diagnostic medical devices that are considered ‘infective’ (capable of causing infection) before their end-of-life

This list of exempted EEE is mainly the same as the RoHS directive’s list of exempted products, although WEEE does not exempt photovoltaic panels. Read more: RoHS vs. REACH vs. WEEE

These exemptions are subject to change with the implementation of new regulations, should that occur. As stated in the WEEE directive, the goal of the regulation is to remain in line with scientific progress. As more substitutions for hazardous materials contained in these exempted products are found, the list of products exempted from WEEE regulation may change. Producers must remain aware of shifting exemptions so they can ensure full compliance with WEEE.

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