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EA update on classifying small mixed WEEE sparks concerns

Small mixed waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE) may be classified as both hazardous and non-hazardous under an update to waste guidance.

The Environment Agency (EA) published a third edition of its technical guidance on interpreting hazardous waste ‘WM2’, which said that co-collected small WEEE from civic amenity sites should receive a “dual” classification, unless hazardous WEEE has been identified and removed.

This has caused concern in the industry on how to apply the rules.

Sorting this WEEE stream to remove hazardous waste is rare and it is difficult to guarantee that batteries will enter the right waste stream, according to Claire Snow, director of Industry Council for Electronic Equipment Recycling (ICER).

She told MRW that the major problem with a dual classification is estimating or measuring how much hazardous WEEE there is in a batch as well as how much non-hazardous WEEE there is.

Hazardous classifications could also add significant costs to the industry for shipping between household waste recycling centres and electronics recyclers.

However, Snow said the EA is discussing a rule that could exempt this stream of hazardous waste from the usual hazardous waste shipping rules. A flat fee for the year may be introduced instead of requiring a hazardous waste consignment note, which could bring down costs.

WEEE recycling firm SWEEEP’s contracts manager Justin Greenaway told MRW that any form of hazardous classification will result in increased administration and its associated costs.

The Government is meeting with the EA to discuss the best method to approach the issue. Government is also working closely with industry and will discuss its recommendations with ICER, according to Snow.

Snow said the aim is to help recyclers “comply but with minimum costs.”

She added: “They don’t want to put on extra burdens that are disproportionate to the risk.”

The rules have not come into force yet but Snow said the dual classification is likely to happen.

  • In June MRW reported that increased shipping costs due to a lack of clarity in the WEEE Directive could result in an estimated 3.3 million ICT products being diverted to recycling rather than reuse in the EU every year.

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