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Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive

What is the WEEE directive?

  • European Legislation in response to concerns about the quantity and hazardous content of electrical & electronic waste going into landfill/ being incinerated
  • WEEE refers to ‘waste electrical & electronic equipment’ i.e. any broken product that uses electricity

Who does WEEE affect?

WEEE affects business to business and domestic equipment within 10 categories of products that use up to 1000 volts for alternating current and 1500 volts for direct current:

  • Large household appliances
  • Small household appliances
  • IT & telecommunications equipment
  • Consumer equipment
  • Lighting equipment
  • Electrical & electronic tools
  • Toys, leisure & sports equipment
  • Medical equipment    
  • Monitoring and control instruments
  • Automatic dispensers

The key aims of WEEE are to:

  • prevent waste
  • reduce the % of e-waste being disposed of in landfill
  • increase re-use, recycling and other forms of recovery
  • improve the environmental performance of all parties in the supply chain

These aims are likely to be met by making producers responsible for:

  • taking back and recycling electrical and electronic equipment
  • meeting collection, recovery and recycling targets
  • meeting all the recycling and recovery costs for domestic equipment.
  • potentially paying collection costs
  • costs associated with commercial equipment, unless member states
    decide otherwise or producers make alternative arrangements with
    their customers.

Implications of WEEE for product design:

The WEEE directive will mean that products will need to be designed with end-of-life criteria in mind.  This includes considerations regarding;

  • how long the product should last for?
  • how to get the product back?
  • how to take the product apart most efficiently?
  • what to do with the component parts/ materials – reuse? recycle? etc.?

As a result of WEEE, companies will be required to provide information for:

  • users – From January 2006 companies will be required to inform users what to do with end-of-life equipment and label devices with a 'do not bin' symbol
  • recyclers – on how to dismantle equipment and what hazardous substances it contains
  • government - on amounts of equipment sold, collected


Recent information indicates that: “the WEEE Directive implementation date has been postponed until July 2007”.

Substances which have to be removed prior to disposal, as a result of the WEEE Directive

This includes the removal of
• mercury which can be used in components such as switches,
• batteries
• printed circuit boards (PCB) greater than 10cm²
• toner cartridges, liquid and pasty, as well as colour toner
• plastic containing brominated flame retardants
• asbestos waste and components which contain asbestos
• cathode ray tubes
• chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) or hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), hydrocarbons (HC)
• gas discharge lamps
• liquid crystal displays (together with their casing where appropriate) greater than 100cm² and all those back-lighted with gas discharge lamps
• external electric cables
• components containing refractory ceramic fibres
• components containing radioactive substances with the exception of components that are below the exemption thresholds
• electrolyte capacitors containing substances of concern (height > 25 mm, diameter > 25 mm or proportionately similar volume. [1]

[1] European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. Directive 2002/96/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 January 2003 on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). in Official Journal of the European Union. 2003.

For More Information

For user friendly help with the WEEE directive go to

For further information, and to keep up to date with recent developments in implementing the WEEE directive visit the Environment Agency website:

WEEE Collection and Recovery Targets
WEEE Recycling Targets