In response to the growing amount of waste from electrical and electronic household and office equipment (e-waste), the EU in early 2003 adopted the Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). The directive makes producers of electrical and electronic equipment responsible for what happens to the equipment they manufacture once the equipment reaches its end of life.
Before the passing of WEEE, up to 90 percent of e-waste in the EU ended up as toxic pollution when discarded in landfills or was incinerated. With the large amount of toxic chemicals used in products such as televisions, computers, and refrigerators, these items contribute significantly to the amount of toxic pollution to the environment.
WEEE establishes minimum requirements for reuse, recycling, and recovery of covered items. There are ten categories of products covered by WEEE:
1. Large household appliances - refrigerators, freezers, washers, dryers, stoves, etc.
2. Small household appliances - vacuum cleaners, toasters, clocks, etc.
3. IT and telecommunications equipment - computers of all sizes, printers, faxes, phones, etc.
4. Consumer equipment - televisions, radios, musical instruments, etc.
5. Lighting equipment - Straight fluorescent lamps, compact fluorescent lamps, high-intensity discharge lamps, etc.
6. Electrical and electronic tools (with the exception of large-scale stationary industrial tools) - drills, saws, mowers, etc.
7. Toys, leisure and sports equipment - videogames, electric trains, sports equipment with electrical or electronic components, etc.
8. Medical devices (with the exception of all implanted and infected products) - radiotherapy equipment, cardiology equipment, dialysis equipment, etc.
9. Monitoring and control instruments - thermostats, scales, smoke detectors, etc.
10. Automatic dispensers - All devices that automatically deliver all kind of products, such as coffee, soft drinks, money, etc.
To meet the goal of reducing waste caused by electrical and electronic equipment, the WEEE directive creates the following requirements:
▲ Producers (manufacturers or importers) of electrical and electronic equipment are required to register in the countries in which they do business. They will also be monitored on their success in achieving mandated recycling and recovery targets that increase over time.
▲ Private households can (but are not required to) return e-waste to collection facilities free of charge. E-waste cannot be thrown in with general waste,
▲ Producers will be responsible for financing the e-waste collection facilities.
▲ Producers will be required to mark their products with the WEEE symbol (a crossed out wheeled bin, as shown in Figure 2-2) to let consumers know that the product cannot go in with general waste and should be returned to a WEEE collection facility.
▲ Member nations must collect and recycle the equivalent of 4kg of "e-waste" for every person living in the country.
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