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Consumer Recycling Information


Waste Electrical and Elecctronic Equipment (WEEE) and Restriction On certain Hazardous Substances in elecctronic and electrical equipment (ROHS) Directives

The WEEE Directive aims to minimise the impact of electrical and electronic goods on the environment, by increasing re-use and recycling and reducing the amount of WEEE going to landfill. It seeks to achieve this by making those that produce the WEEE responsible for financing the collection, treatment, and recovery of it, and by obliging retailers to allow consumers to return their waste equipment free of charge.

Its aims are to:

  • Reduce waste from electrical and electronic equipment (EEE)
  • Encourage separate collection of WEEE
  • Encourage treatment, reuse, recovery, recycling and sound environmental disposal of EEE
  • Make producers of EEE responsible for the environmental impact of their products
  • Improve the environmental performance of all those involved during the lifecycle of EEE.

The regulations have significant implications for importers, producers, retailers and users of EEE, and for those who treat or recover WEEE.

The WEEE Directive was agreed on 13 February 2003.

  • The DTI is responsible for transposing the WEEE Directive into UK law, working in partnership with the Devolved Administrations.
  • DEFRA is responsible for ensuring the permitting of Authorised Treatment Facilities (ATF) for the WEEE Directive.
  • The Environment Agency (SEPA in Scotland and EHS in NI) will be the enforcement agency for the WEEE Directive.

What are the WEEE and ROHS Directives?

WEEE stands for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. ROHS stands for the Restriction of Certain Hazardous Substances in electrical and electronic equipment. Both the WEEE and ROHS Directives are pieces of European legislation which require all European member States, including the UK, to improve the way it manages WEEE. In particular, the Directives require the Government to implement UK legislation to meet certain new requirements.

Why do we have these Directives, are they really necessary?

Implementing the Directives' requirements should reduce risks to human health and environment through the proper treatment of waste and a reduction in hazardous substances. We also expect benefits through the conservation of raw materials and of energy resources. The Directives should lead to a reduction in air pollution, including CO2 and ozone depleting substances, and water toxicity by more than 50% when compared to existing practice. In particular, the WEEE Directive will help us to divert between 133,000 and 339,300 tonnes of waste from landfill and the ROHS Directive should help future recycling through reducing the need for special handling, allowing a reduction in recycling costs.

Are the two Directives related?

Yes. The WEEE Directive aims to raise levels of recycling of WEEE and encourage products to be designed with dismantling and recycling in mind. A key part of this is to make manufacturers and importers ("producers") of electrical and electronic equipment responsible for meeting the costs of the collection, treatment and recovery of WEEE. If products are designed with this in mind, there is an opportunity to reduce these costs. The ROHS Directive fits into this by reducing the amount of hazardous substances used in products. This lessens the risks to recycling staff and means that less special handling is required, again leading to a reduction in recycling costs.

We hear much more about the WEEE Directive than the ROHS Directive. Why?

The ROHS Directive is legally more 'clear cut', however commercially it is potentially more important. It requires producers to ensure that products they 'place on the market' do not contain lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium and certain brominated flame retardants (polybrominated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ethers) from 1 July 2006.

What does 'placed on the market' mean?

The ROHS Directive restricts what kind of substances can be present in electrical products sold on the European market. If a product contains one of the restricted substances, it will be illegal to sell this in Europe after 1 July 2006.

What types of equipment are covered by the WEEE Directive?

The WEEE Directive includes a list of categories of electrical and electronic equipment. These are presented in Annex 1A of the Directive.

There are ten categories of WEEE.

  1. Large household appliances
  2. Small household appliances
  3. IT and telecommunications equipment
  4. Consumer equipment
  5. Lighting equipment
  6. Electrical and electronic tools
  7. Toys, leisure and sports equipment
  8. Medical devices
  9. Monitoring and control equipment
  10. Automatic dispensers.

The WEEE Regulations apply to equipment in the above categories with a voltage of up to 1000 volts AC or up to 1500 volts DC. Certain types of EEE are exempt from the regulations, including:

  1. Equipment that doesn't need electricity to work
  2. Equipment that is part of another type of equipment which is outside the scope of the WEEE Regulations, for example aircraft and vehicles
  3. EEE designed to protect the UK's national security or that is used for a military purpose
  4. Filament light bulbs
  5. Household lighting
  6. Large stationary industrial tools - permanently fixed at a given place in industrial machinery or an industrial location
  7. Medical implants and infected medical equipment.

How can WEEE be identified?

The crossed-out wheelie bin symbol shown below, which has been required since August 2005, is used to indicate equipment which should not be disposed of with general household waste. The horizontal bar underneath the bin indicates items which were first placed on the market after August 2005. Some producers may use a date code instead of this bar.

What does 'producer responsibility' mean?

Producer responsibility means making the 'producer of a product' responsible for the product once it becomes waste. At the moment in the UK, the company or individual disposing of waste is responsible for the costs of its disposal or recycling. The general public pay for waste management through council tax payments and businesses pay waste collection companies to remove and manage their waste. In the future, producers of electrical products will be paying for the management of their products once they become waste.

Who is a producer?

A 'producer' of electrical or electronic products includes companies, which manufacture electrical or electronic products, but also importers of electrical and electronic products. The majority of electrical and electronic products used in the UK have been imported. Many UK 'producers' will actually be importers. Producers will also include retailers who sell their own branded products.

How much WEEE do we have to collect and recycle?

The WEEE Directive sets two types of targets: collection targets and recovery/recycling targets. It requires the UK to separately collect at least 4kg of household WEEE per inhabitant per year (around 250,000 tonnes). It does not set a collection target for WEEE from business customers (WEEE from users other than private households). All WEEE, which has been 'separately collected', will need to be sent for specialist treatment and recovery.

What does 'separately collect' mean?

For household WEEE, 'Separately collect' means providing the facilities to ensure that WEEE can be discarded separately from other waste or rubbish. If a householder decides to throw a broken hairdryer in the dustbin with their other waste, the hairdryer has not been separately collected. There is no obligation on anybody (e.g. a Local Authority) to separate it later so will end up at landfill.

What is "specialist treatment"?

The WEEE Directive sets out criteria for treatment that must be carried out on separately collected WEEE before it is sent for further processing and recycling/recovery. This includes the removal of certain hazardous substances (e.g. lead, mercury) and components that contains them. The treatment may only be carried out by properly licensed operators.

Are we likely to meet the collection target of 4kg of household WEEE per inhabitant per year?

Latest industry data suggests we already exceed this collection target.

Why do we need to anything more, if the UK already meets the WEEE collection target?

The collection target is just one requirement. Once WEEE has been separately collected the Directive requires specialist treatment and recovery/recycling of the waste products. The UK currently collects over 4 kg/householder/year but we do not treat and recycle these products according to the requirements of the Directive.

Will it be illegal to throw waste electrical appliances in the dustbin or general skip?

The WEEE Directive, and future implementing UK legislation, will not make it illegal to throw electrical products in the dustbin or in a general skip with other rubbish. However, facilities will be established to encourage individuals and businesses to separate their waste electrical equipment. The individual or company discarding the waste appliance or equipment will be able to decide whether or not to make use of the facility.

Will producers have to seek out their old products to recycle them?

A producer may decide that they wish to set up a 'closed loop' system to ensure their products are returned to them and then carry out the necessary treatment, recycling and recovery of their products themselves. However, this will not be a legal requirement. Producer responsibility is better interpreted as 'financial' producer responsibility. In other words, producers will need to be able to provide some evidence that they have contributed towards the financial costs of treating, recycling and recovering any WEEE, which has been separately collected.

How will WEEE from business users be collected?

Producers will need to establish or contribute to systems which allow businesses to return their WEEE. The costs of returning, treating and recycling WEEE will need to be met by producers.

What are the return and collection facilities available?

Scheme 1 *

To arrange a collection of hardware (photocopier/printer/duplicator) please call 01522 834666 or email

Scheme 2

To arrange a collection of used consumable items (toners/inks/fusers/kits - not paper) email or call 0844 4810088. We will then supply you with a Recycling Box for you to collect all your used consumables in. When full, just contact the Green Team to arrange collection and request a replacement box should you like one.

* Collection Fee Applicable


Where can I find general information about recycling?

For advice on all aspects of recycling at home, including the locations of recycling collection points for waste electrical items near to you, please visit


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