Awareness of WEEE marred by misconceptions

It’s just over a year since the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations came into force and thousands of businesses have registered with a WEEE compliance scheme.


It’s just over a year since the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations came into force and thousands of businesses that import, rebrand or manufacture electrical and electronic equipment have registered with a WEEE compliance scheme. By financing the treatment and recycling of WEEE they are making a real difference to the environment.



A recent study we carried out found that 76 per cent of businesses are aware of the WEEE Regulations and a clear majority also believe that disposal of electronic and electrical waste in the UK is a major problem – demonstrating a high awareness of green issues and the WEEE Regulations amongst businesses.



However, a significant number of companies that need to join an approved scheme have not done so – putting themselves at an increasing risk of being prosecuted. Nearly half mistakenly believe that the regulations do not apply to them.



We are now stepping up our enforcement activity, having allowed producers a bedding in period to understand their responsibilities and register with a producer compliance scheme.



So where do we think some producers are getting it wrong about WEEE? Our study identified several misconceptions about the WEEE Regulations.



Many of the surveyed UK businesses do not realise they are classified as electrical producers. Over a third of companies we questioned mistakenly think that small companies are exempt from the WEEE Regulations. In fact all businesses that make or assemble products which require electricity for their main purpose – from TVs to medical devices – and sell them under their own brand name, or who rebrand or import products before putting them on the UK market, are likely to have to comply with the WEEE Regulations, regardless of their size.



Some companies believe that because their offices are not in the UK they don’t need to comply. Even if a business’ office is based outside the UK, if it brings electrical goods into the country to place on the UK market it is still needs to join a WEEE compliance scheme in the UK. The WEEE Regulations have been introduced to put the responsibility for waste disposal back on the producers – and any company involved in the manufacture, distribution, importing or rebranding of electrical products since January 2007 falls into this category.



Similarly, some believe the regulations affect manufacturers more than importers. WEEE Regulations apply equally to all businesses involved in the EEE supply chain from manufacturers to distributors – there is no one sector that is more affected than another. To assume the regulations do not apply without checking is to risk enforcement action. Businesses can use online resources, such as the Environment Agency website, to find out quickly and simply how they are affected and the steps they are required to take to comply.



www.environment-agency.gov.uk/weee includes a straightforward, step by step guide to help producers comply and provides a list of compliance schemes to choose from. The advice is to shop around to get the best price and the appropriate level of support. Regardless of the scheme they sign up to, the costs of compliance are likely to be significantly less than the fines imposed for failing to meet the requirements of the WEEE Regulations.



It is encouraging to see good overall awareness of green issues across electronics manufacturing businesses. However, it is concerning that many businesses in the sector have not made full use of the guidance that’s been put in place to help them comply with the WEEE Regulations. Over 80 per cent of the producers we questioned know that enforcement action can be taken against them for non-compliance – but many are still failing to act. We urge any companies who could possibly fall into the ‘producer’ category of the WEEE Regulations to check out the scope of the requirements on the Environment Agency website, to see if their business needs to comply and what action they need to take.”



Adrian Harding is Producer Responsibility Policy Advisor at the Environment Agency



For further information about WEEE regulations click here or call 08708 506 506.