Top of Page
Brighter Futures Together

Recycle waste electronics and electrical equipment in your community

Use these links to jump to a section
6512024_m
Help spread the word

01. Background

This factsheet will help you to look at waste electronics and electrical equipment (WEEE) recycling in your community.

Electronic waste is the most rapidly growing waste problem in the world. Throwing them away however, is not a good choice. Electronic goods contain hazardous substances such as lead which can affect the environment, leak into groundwater and affect our health if they are disposed of incorrectly. In 2006, we dumped a shocking one million tonnes of electrical goods into the landfill. This is set to rise as more and more electrical goods have inbuilt non-usable parts and are so cheap it is more economical for consumers to throw them away than repair.

In August 2007, a new law came out with the aim of minimising the impact of electrical and electronic goods on the environment. This encourages us to re-use, recycling and reducing the amount of WEEE going to landfill. Recycling WEEE helps to recover valuable resources such as precious metals, plastics and steel which reduce the need for raw materials.

Individuals and community groups can take responsibility locally to dispose of any WEEE responsibly. For any community to be sustainable, it should strive to create a community that is environmentally sensitive – where the environment is protected. This factsheet will help create environmentally sensitive environments and ultimately, over time, more sustainable communities.

02. Suggested Activities

Here are simple steps that you, as an individual or part of a community group, can follow to responsibly dispose of electric and electronic goods.

Most electrical consumer goods discarded by households and businesses are covered by the WEEE Regulations. Charities and community groups will have similar responsibilities to business users to dispose of any end-of-life electrical equipment that they own.

  • Retailers have to offer consumers a way to get rid of old equipment when you buy the new equivalent. Small lightweight objects such as kettles can be taken back to the store when you buy a new one. For larger items, they will give you information about collection from your local authority. Alternatively, they will take the item themselves.
  • For bulky deliveries such as a washing machine or cooker, retailers will take away your old equipment when they deliver the new goods.
  • If you buy a small item online, such as a router, check to see if the company you are buying from offers a Freepost address for returning your old equipment.
  • If you have a designated WEEE collection facility at your local household waste site you can take goods there or ring your council for collection. Check out where your nearest participating facility is with Recycle Now. Visit www.recyclenow.com.
  • If you are getting rid of something in working order then consider donating it. Ask around your friends, family, work colleagues or local hospital. Alternatively, sign up for your local Freecycle group where you can offer your items for free. Visit www.freecycle.org.

Anyone who manufactures, imports, re-brands, distributes or disposes of EEE, such as household appliances, IT equipment, lighting equipment and power tools must comply with the WEEE Regulations. Here are some further steps that your community can consider to set up a WEEE recycling scheme or project in your local area.

  • You might work with local authorities, their contractors or independent businesses offering collection, refurbishment and recovery of end-of-life electrical equipment to create employment, raise funds and contribute towards sustainability.
  • You could develop schemes to use and loan or donate refurbished computers to provide computer skills training to the elderly and unemployed.
  • You could provide bring banks and organise recycling events at schools and other community centres.
  • You could develop bring sites and register them as Designated Collection Facilities (DCFs) for household WEEE with one or more of the producer compliance schemes.
  • If you have the skills and facilities to treat WEEE, charity or voluntary groups can become Approved Authorised Treatment Facilities (AATF); re-use that is to be included in producer evidence must see equipment going through an AATF or an Approved Exporter.

If you decide to collect or refurbish electrical goods, please follow the links in the Additional Information section to find out in detail what is and is not covered.

The British Standards Institute has also recently published a new standard, PAS 141, which sets out how certified organisations can demonstrate that unwanted electrical items have been refurbished and restored to an acceptable standard for re-use.

03. Additional Information

Guidance on the detail of the WEEE regulations can be found at the following sites:

www.businesslink.gov.uk/weee

www.bis.gov.uk/weee

www.wrap.org.uk/recycling_industry/information_by_material/electrical_and_electronic_products/good_practice_collection_and_treatment/third_sector.html

Anyone setting up collection, storage or treatment sites should contact The Environment Agency for advice on the legal controls that could apply to them. Visit www.environment-agency.gov.uk. T: 03708 506506

04. Funding Opportunities

Some potential funding opportunities for WEEE related activities in your community include:

If you do register sites as Designated Collection Facilities (DCFs), you will receive funding from the Distributors Take-back Scheme to support the separate collection and treatment of WEEE at their sites.

Some labour intensive WEEE treatment and refurbishment may not be financially attractive to the private sector but may provide worthwhile training opportunities to not-for-profit ventures and still generate some income from the sale of re-usable goods and reclaimed spare parts.

It may be worth contacting your local authority or other local or national funding grant bodies to provide training in restoring WEEE to re-use. Further details on up to date funding opportunities are available in the Directory.

05. Useful Contacts

Some useful contacts include:

WRAP www.wrap.org.uk. T: 0808 100 2040

Valpak www.valpack.co.uk. T: 08450 682 572

It may be worth contacting your local authority, full contact details can be found in the Directory.

06. About the Contributor

The Environment Agency, the leading public organisation for protecting and improving the environment for people and wildlife in England and Wales.

This factsheet is part of the Brighter Futures Together toolkit and provides a general overview of the different ways to get involved in your community. It is not a comprehensive guide or legal advice document. Please seek further advice and appropriate consent before commencing any projects.

The material in the factsheet is not copyrighted however we ask that you acknowledge the Brighter Futures Together toolkit when you use them. www.brighterfuturestogether.co.uk