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Published on November 1st, 2018 | by The GC Team


Plug in to new legislation


Legislation around waste electrical products is changing. Ben Storer, Senior Technical Advisor at compliance scheme Valpak, explains how the regulations will affect a new wave of manufacturers and retailers

Electrical goods enrich our lives. They make short work of dull tasks, tackle jobs to a standard that we humans can only dream of, and even entertain us. However, at some point, when they reach the end of their useful lives, they need to be disposed of responsibly. From January, the legislation around electrical goods is changing, and both the manufacturers and distributors of electrical products will be tasked with meeting updated environmental legislation. The changes aim to bring more electronic items into the scope of the regulations and, in turn, to increase the amount of waste electrical equipment recycled in the UK.

The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations place an obligation on producers to offset the cost of recycling WEEE at the end of life. In practice, this means that producers have to report on the volume of goods that are included in the legislation, and then pay a fee to facilitate recycling. In 2019, the UK is switching to an Open Scope system that will expand to include a greater number of items.

A producer of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) is any business that imports, manufactures, or rebrands electrical or electronic goods for sale in the UK. Compliance with the regulations is a legal requirement, and around 6,000 businesses already report on the volume of EEE they place on the market. However, under the new rules, some producers will be required to navigate the WEEE regulations for the first time.

Household luminaires will be included for the first time, along with dimmers, light switches, lighting controls and certain mirrors which include lighting. Small items like fuse boxes, circuit breakers and plugs; and fixed installations such as air conditioning units and filtration systems will also be coming into scope. Other products may also be affected, such as electrical accessories and clothing contained EEE, which may also fall into scope depending on its basic function.

Newly-obligated companies can find the process confusing but, with the right help, it can be straight forward. Although producers can manage the reporting themselves, they need to work with a compliance scheme to manage the purchasing of evidence to show that the right costs have been paid into the system.

Producers need to understand the weight of individual products, excluding batteries and packaging. They can weigh the products in-house using calibrated scales, or they may choose to source the weights from manufacturers and suppliers.

As well as contributing to the cost of recycling, producers are responsible for raising awareness among consumers and encouraging them to dispose of end of life products correctly. The electrical equipment needs to include the crossed-out wheelie bin symbol to show that products should not be sent to landfill and should, instead, be recycled at local recycling points.

A good compliance scheme will be able to clarify which products are obligated, and talk the company through the steps required to register. It is important to start early – by November, businesses should have knowledge of which products they need to report. By January, companies should have systems in place to start recording information. The first quarterly declaration will be made in April 2019, and will include all the items placed on the market between January and March.

Diverting products from landfill has a huge impact on the environment so, while the new regulations may seem confusing, they are an important step in protecting the environment from the toxic impact of mishandled waste EEE. For those who need help implementing the changes, their compliance scheme should be the first port of call. Working together, producers and recyclers can make a real impact, increase recycling, and protect the environment.

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