Most WEEE to be treated as hazardous, says EA

Most classes of domestic waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in the UK must now be classed as hazardous waste or containing persistent organic pollutants (POPs) unless it can be proved otherwise, according to updated guidance by the Environment Agency (EA).

The update in guidance on how to classify different types of waste was published by the EA on 8 June and stated that WEEE must be assessed to check whether it contains POPs over a certain amount.

Most WEEE to be classed as hazardous, says EAThe EA’s guidance states: ‘If the levels of hazardous substances or POPs are over a certain amount the item will be classified as hazardous or POPs waste. If your WEEE is POPs waste you cannot reuse or recycle it.’

POPs are chemicals that can persist in the environment for a long time, posing risks to environmental and human health. The EA states that many forms of WEEE contain POPs, including: printed circuit boards; plastic casings, cables and other components; insulation foams; cooling agents; flame retardants; activated glass and screen phosphors; cathode ray tubes; capacitors; and Ni-Cd batteries.

Large domestic appliances (LDA), some LED, halogen and incandescent lightbulbs and lamps and some types of batteries are regarded by the EA as not usually containing significantly amounts of POPs.

Regarding the exports, electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) may only be exported for reuse where it can be proved that it is not hazardous or POPs waste. Where hazardous and POPs waste is exported, this must be notified, only exported to an EU or OECD country and only exported for recovery in a way that destroys POPs, such as incineration for energy recovery.

Read more: POPs mean changes for UK WEEE

As with most parts of the economy, the WEEE sector has been experiencing a turbulent time due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Disruption caused by government lockdown measures are set to see WEEE collections fall steeply over the course of the year, which is particularly disappointing since results for the first quarter of 2020 showed that WEEE collections were slightly ahead of 2020 targets as the sector seeks to avoid missing the annual collection target for a fourth consecutive year.

To take into account the impact of Covid-19 on the sector, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced that any methodology for calculating the 2020 WEEE compliance fee mechanism would have to give consideration to the effects of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is set to hold its first public evidence session as part of its inquiry into electronic waste and the circular economy on 11 June at 9.30am.

You can read the EA’s guidance in full on the government website.

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