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Environment Agency publishes updated guidance on management of WEEE

10th June 2020

Faye Perry

'Following a study to examine the presence of POPs in waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), we have clarified the requirements for how you must manage WEEE’, the statement from the Environment Agency reads.

The guidance outlines that all WEEE waste should be treated as containing hazardous substances or POPs unless it can be proved that levels in the item are below the set concentration limits. Components of WEEE identified as likely to contain hazardous substances or POPs include: printed circuit boards, plastic casing, cables, insulation foam, cooling agents, flame retardants, cathode ray tubes, capacitors, activated glass and screen phosphors and Ni-Cad batteries. If an item is classified as POPs waste, it cannot be reused (see exception below) or recycled and must instead be irreversibly destroyed.

Classification of different WEEE streams

Large Domestic Appliances (category 1) – white goods: circuit boards, motors or plastic components may contain hazardous chemicals or POPs but unlikely in high enough concentrations to classify as hazardous or POPs. Classify as non-hazardous and non-POPs

Small Mixed WEEE (SMW, categories 2-10): circuit boards, screens, plastic parts or batteries may contain hazardous chemicals or POPs. Classify as hazardous and POPs

Lightbulbs and Lamps – circuit boards, plastic casings or plastic parts may contain hazardous chemicals and POPs such as flame retardants:

  • Fluorescent tubes – classify as hazardous
  • LED, halogen and incandescent containing POPs – classify as hazardous and POPs
  • LED, halogen and incandescent proven not to contain hazardous components – classify as non-hazardous and non-POPs

Medical devices (category 8), monitoring and control equipment (category 9) and automatic dispensers (category 10) – treatment facilities are required to assess waste to determine whether if hazardous substances or POPs are present. If an assessment cannot be done, the WEEE must be classified as hazardous and POPs

Impact on Reuse

The EA guidance provides an exemption for equipment manufactured after 1 January 2009. EEE manufactured after this date is deemed less likely to contain the PDBE group of POPs as the use of this chemical was stopped in products placed on the market in Europe after this date. As a result WEEE can be reused within the UK if it can be demonstrated that the equipment was manufactured after 1 January 2009 and it has met all other reuse tests.

WEEE can only be exported for reuse if it can be demonstrated that POPs are not present above the set concentration limits including in printed circuit boards, cables, plastic components.

Impact on Treatment

The output from the treatment of WEEE classified as POPs waste will also contain POPs and must be destroyed. This remains the case even if the treatment has diluted the level of POPs below the set concentration limits, as the limits are based on the material entering the start of the treatment process. The requirement to irreversibly destroy POPs waste is likely to have cost implications both for the initial treatment of the WEEE item and for the downstream treatment of WEEE plastics and cables. This in turn could have a knock-on effect on the cost of WEEE evidence, required to demonstrate compliance under the WEEE Regulations.

1. You can find the guidance on classifying WEEE here

2. disposing of waste containing POPs here

3. WEEE treatment and POPs here 

If you have any queries with regards to the impact of POPs on WEEE recycling, please do not hesitate to contact us at weee@complydirect.com or call us on 01756 794 951.