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New WEEE rules start acronyms spinning out of control

Julie-Ann Adams

This may sound like the start of a Scrabble puzzle. But soon it will be important to understand the different definitions of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) because the new Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011 may have unintended consequences.

At present, there are no legal barriers to anyone discarding old electrical appliances and treating them as waste, as long as they use appropriate routes. For example, an old fridge (EEE) becomes WEEE when it is taken to a ‘designated collection facility’ such as a council recycling centre or an in-store take-back facility, or to a licenced treatment facility if a non-household user, because there was an ‘intention to discard’ by the last holder.

Assuming the fridge is obligated B2C WEEE, it would be counted as part of the UK household WEEE returns. Subsequently, the weight data would be included in the WEEE evidence generated by an approved authorised treatment facility to a producer compliance scheme.

This would also apply if the fridge was subsequently considered fit for re-use at the collection or treatment facility and passed to a re-use operator partner. The weight data would be included when it is repaired and placed back on the market as re-use EEE (REEE) to perform its intended original function. The emphasis is that obligated evidence can only be issued once it is WEEE in the first place.

“There are no legal barriers to anyone discarding old appliances as waste”

But on 28 September the new requirement means that business users (or councils on behalf of householders) will have to already have taken “all such measures as are reasonable in the circumstances to prevent waste and apply the waste hierarchy” when they transfer waste.

Consideration will have to be given as to the re-use possibilities of appliances. These appliances are classed as used EEE (UEEE) because they are not ‘waste’ and so not WEEE - even if they are accepted for repair by an operator that also takes in WEEE. But it will still be classed as REEE once it is prepared to be placed back on the market. WEEE evidence cannot be generated on UEEE.

What needs to be debated is whether councils or, more especially, an in-store take-back facility will be obliged to set up some sort of direct site arrangement with a re-use partner in order to comply with this regulation. Otherwise, how can they genuinely complete the waste holder’s declaration that will have to be added to all waste transfer or hazardous consignment notes? Local authorities (or their waste management partners) may be reluctant to do this if, as UEEE, the material is not to count as part of their recycling credits/targets.

One may deliberate that if re-use of UEEE is taken up on a large scale, what impact will this have on the volume of obligated WEEE (and any consequent REEE from WEEE) collected and reported in the UK? What will the waste management options be for business users? Are organisations aware of their impending duty of care obligations? Will they be able to find local outlets to sell or donate their UEEE?

Food for thought perhaps - or the easy tick box declaration on a waste transfer note that it is ‘waste’ as envisaged by some?

Julie-Ann Adams is managing director of Really Green Credentials

Readers' comments (1)

  • Very important points made here by Julie-Ann, and well explained. This is the coming together of different policy measures, and the requirements to apply the waste hierachy will hopefully have an impact on the "recycling target" chasing of yester-year.

    Saying that, the European Parliament Rapporteur has just announced his ongoing support for a "reuse target" to be introduced under the WEEE Review, so this will/could result in an even greater push for reuse. We've had 4 years to establish what proportion of the UK WEEE stream is reusable and if the collection systems work with us, we can easily meet the 5% reuse target for certain categories of WEEE.

    On the issue of whether the reuse of EEE/UEEE/WEEE counts towards Producer responsibility; I think a great deal depends upon the PCSs, DCFs and AATFs working with Reuse Operators (such as many FRN members acorss the UK) who are PAS:141 compliant AATFs themselves and are able to "designate" the EEE with whatever suffix is required.

    More than happy to join the debate if DEFRA and BIS wish to respond to Julie-Ann's opinion piece in MRW. This needs quick planning and communication to all stakeholders.

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