What is the WEEE Directive?


WEEE is the acronym for "Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment". The WEEE Directive is a legislation from the European Union (EU) that encourages and regulates the collection, reuse, recycling, and recovery of waste electrical and electrical equipment. 


This directive aims to reduce environmental damage and human health problems by minimizing the amount of disposed electronic and electrical equipment that go to landfills.  The WEEE Directive complements the ROHS Directive, which is another EU directive for environment and human health protection aimed at restricting the use of 6 hazardous substances.


The WEEE Directive makes the producer (which refers to either the manufacturer itself or the importer) of electronic and electrical goods responsible for shouldering the costs of recycling and recovering these equipment once they have reached "end-of-life".  Private end-users (such as households) will be able to return their waste electronic and electrical equipment to these producers without charge. Reuse and recycling of the returned WEEE or their components must first be considered before material recovery itself.


The directive was initially scheduled to be effective by August of 2005, but numerous concerns such as the costs of producer compliance have led to the postponement of the directive's enforcement to January, 2006.


The electronic and electrical goods covered by the WEEE Directive include: 1) large and small household appliances; 2) IT and communication equipment; 3) consumer entertainment equipment (e.g., TV's, VCR's, VCD/DVD players, etc.); 4) lighting products and equipment; 5) electronic toys; 6) leisure and sports equipment; 7) medical devices; 8) monitoring and control equipment; 9) automatic dispensers, etc.


The WEEE Directive requires that the following actions are taken on WEEE:


1) Treatment, which pertains to the removal of all fluids and the ROHS-banned substances from all WEEE; this is to be performed by licensed operators only in a facility that's adequate for this purpose, i.e., one that is weatherproof and has impermeable floors;


2)   Recovery/Recycling, which pertains to the reclamation of a certain percentage of the WEEE for actual reuse, as opposed to simply disposing of the waste materials by destroying them through methods such as incineration.


Bulk of the WEEE that find their way into landfills today consist of what are referred to as 'white goods', such as refrigerators, washing machines, computers, computer paraphernalia, and photocopiers.  Not only will these wastes not biodegrade, but they also contain toxic materials such as heavy metals and organic pollutants.  The EU estimates that WEEE already comprise 4% of total waste, or about 6.5 millions tons a year, underscoring the need to implement the WEEE and ROHS directives as soon as possible.


See Also:  The ROHS DirectivePb-free Manufacturing




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