Electronic Waste | ITL3 RS A1.2 |


Once, when electrical devices became faulty, they would have been repaired to extend their useful life. Now, manufacturing costs have reduced significantly - repairing items can now be more expensive than replacement. Plus, technology is updating so fast that an electrical device's functionality and performance may no longer meet the consumer's needs. In the UK, approximately 2 million tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) items are discarded by households and businesses every year.

To control the reuse and recycling of WEEE, the WEEE Regulations were introduced as a specialist part of the waste and recycling industry.

The key objective of the WEEE Regulations is to reduce the amount of electrical and electronic waste that goes to landfill. This is achieved by placing responsibility on the producers and distributors of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE). 


Take-back schemes 

The WEEE Regulations place an obligation on distributors to offer a take-back system, where WEEE items can be disposed of free of charge. Distributors must offer one of two schemes to their customers: 

  • Free in-store take-back scheme - where customers purchase an equivalent new item, and the distributor accepts the old one in return
  • Distributor take-back scheme - where customers can dispose of WEEE items free of charge at a designated site


Categories of EEE

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) includes most items that have an electrical plug or a battery. Details of which types of EEE are covered in the Regulations were released in 2013, and extended in 2019.

Optional: Navigate to legislation.gov.uk via the links below to check whether an item is included in the Regulations.

2013 Regulations:

  • Schedule 1 - Categories of EEE covered by the Regulations
  • Schedule 2 - List of types of EEE which fall under the categories in Schedule 1

2019 Regulations: 

In 2019, the scope of the Regulations was extended to cover additional categories of EEE, as outlined in Schedules 3 and 4 below.

  • Schedule 3 - Categories of EEE covered by the Regulations from January 2019
  • Schedule 4 - List of types of EEE which fall within the categories set out in Schedule 3



Householders have a duty to dispose of their electrical waste properly. These items carry the following symbol: 


Items labelled with this symbol should not be just be thrown in the waste bin, they should be taken to the nearest household waste recycling centre. Local authorities offer a collection service, but there is usually a charge. Of lesson, there are also the take-back schemes mentioned earlier. 


Commercial waste 

Businesses, schools, hospitals and government organisations must all ensure that their EEE is separately collected, treated and recycled. Depending on the circumstances, the cost would be covered by the business or producer of the items. 


Record keeping 

A distributor must keep records of the number of WEEE units returned and kept for a period of at least 4 years from the date of the record entry. Many organisations use approved recycling companies to ensure they are compliant with the current WEEE regulations. 


Data protection 

It is also worth noting that any data stored on a device's hard drive must also be removed before recycling to avoid non-compliance with Data Protection and GDPR regulations. Often hard drives are mechanically shredded to make it impossible to recover and avoid any data from being compromised. Although removing or destroying data from retired devices is essential, it is not part of the WEEE regulations. 



RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) in EEE Regulations aims to reduce the amount of hazardous substances used to manufacture EEE, hence making disposal at the end of its useful life safer and greener. 

Manufacturers placing EEE on the market in the UK must evaluate their production controls to ensure that their products do not exceed the maximum prescribed levels of hazardous substances.

Simply disposing of a computer's processer incorrectly could have an impact on the environment. It could contain potentially harmful materials such as lead, cadmium, beryllium, or brominated flame retardants. 


E-waste is having a significant impact on our environment. Regulations are in place to control how we should recycle our EEE at the end of its useful life (such as WEEE Regulations) and also to reduce the amount of toxic or hazardous substances used to manufacture EEE items (such as RoHS).


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