Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations were originally strategized in 2006 in the supervision of the WEEE Directive. These regulations immediately became mandatory to practice in the UK’s waste and recycling industry. Considering WEEE recycling regulations as a professional step, it was a detailed guide describing the primary requirements for the recovery, recycling, reuse, and treatment of WEEE.

    In 2013, WEEE regulations were updated. After making the necessary amendments in previous guidelines for a better implementation, in 2014, Regulations were provided the status of law inside the UK. One of the most significant changes was including a broader range of electronic waste under WEEE Regulations by the WEEE Directive from January 2019 onwards. And the second was to bring back the main provisions of Directive 2012/19/EU, replacing Directive 2002/96/EC.

    Electrical Recycling and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2014 has been a good influence. As per the stats, multiple organizations and houses have been discarding not less than 2 million tonnes of products annually – the products categorized as WEEE items for electronic recycling.

    Ten Categories of WEEE Regulations

    Although WEEE commonly enlists the products with a plug or a battery, the Directive has classified the electronic disposal items in ten groups as follows:

    1. Large household appliances include washing machines, refrigerators, microwaves, dishwashers, etc.
    2. Small household appliances, including digital clocks, toasters, pressure cookers, and vacuums
    3. Equipment used in IT and telecommunication, for instance, PCs, laptops, tablets, photocopying machines, smartphones or telephones, and calculators
    4. Consumer machines, e.g., radios, speakers and other musical instruments, TVs, hi-fi tools, and camcorders
    5. Lighting systems that enlist fluorescent tubes (straight, compact) and high-intensity discharge lamps
    6. Commonly used tools that run on electricity such as sewing machines, drilling equipment, saws, and lawnmowers
    7. Household electronic and electrical recycling equipment including battery-operated toys (electric trains), leisure (games consoles), and sports equipment (running machines)
    8. Devices used in medical procedures enlisting dialysis machines, nebulizers, medical freezers, emergency or cardiology apparatus, etc.
    9. Monitoring, security, and control devices, e.g., smoke detectors and sprinklers, panic alarms, thermostats, and cooling and heating regulators
    10. Electronic dispensers (hot drinks dispensers, money dispensers, etc.)

    Common Hazards in WEEE Waste Recycling

    • Machinery safety as materials are crushed, conveyed, compacted, shredded, and palletized.
    • Work-Related Upper Limb Disorders (WRULDS) from repetitive actions like removing wiring looms in electronic recycling. It targets your arm, shoulder, wrist, and hand.
    • Musculoskeletal disorders due to manual handling/picking of heavy items or during WEEE waste collection
    • Skin cuts and abrasions from the sharp edges of the waste, especially when dismantled manually.
    • Electrical hazards are pretty common but one can minimize it with proper electrical testing beforehand.
    • Fire and explosion risk in e waste recycling due to exposure or release of pentane, hydrocarbons, PCBs, and ammonia

    Guidance On the Removal of Harmful Substances in WEEE Recycling

    guidance about weee recycling

    Fluids and Ammonia Removal

    Following the guidelines formulated by WEEE Directives, all fluids present in either heating or cooling devices must be safely extracted, cleared, or removed before crushing or shredding them because they typically comprise CFCs and HCFCs. These compounds are incredibly harmful to the atmosphere. Moreover, they are ozone-depleting substances (ODS). You need to contain ammonia inside a safety vessel. It lets you limit its adverse impacts on living beings along with fire and explosion risks.

    Equipment with Potentially Hazardous PCBs, phosphorus pentachloride, Lead, and Radioactive Substances

    Polychlorinated Biphenyls are typically a part of capacitors and transformers. They got banned in 1972. But industrial tools designed prior to 1976 contain PCBs. Such plants can be potentially hazardous for the environment and negatively influence human health. All capacitors containing PCBs demands careful handling.

    The same is the case with radioactive substances. Typically found in detectors, eliminators, and radium aluminized dials, such substances can disrupt healthy surroundings. Lead and phosphorus pentachloride is highly lethal. Be careful while removing the fluorescent coating of the glass. Why? Because these substances tend to liberate.

    Mercury-Containing Components

    Despite getting banned in 2006, mercury has been a part of batteries, switches, and circuit boards of various tools and devices, including fluorescent backlights, medical apparatuses, electrical and electronic equipment, data transmission and telecommunications equipment, smartphones, etc.

    Recently, the list of WEEE demanding specialist waste treatment comes with the non-CRT flat panel screens. The backlights use mercury in their construction. Each lamp has approx. 3.5mg mercury. And, on average, a 37-inch television tends to have more than 18 lamps.

    Now, you must be questioning how to recycle your electricals? By simply taking out the circuit board, you will be able to get rid of the mercury. Currently, the backlights are manually stripped. It not only increases the expenses but also threatens the surroundings with potential safety hazards.

    Toner Cartridges

    Whether liquid or paste, removing toner cartridges is mandatory to minimize its perilous side effects. Color toners are equally harmful. You must keep them inside safe containers. One must take out or extract the dangerous substances as a whole and completely intact. It helps you stay away from the issues of toner dispersal.

    Asbestos Waste

    Regardless of the restraint of using asbestos in manufacturing modern appliances, it benefits from heat-resistant properties. Twenty-year-old devices might comprise asbestos, which is why the treatment facilities must stay alert of asbestos waste. Once they have a comprehensive risk assessment of the machines, they handle the product following the regulations stated in the “Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2006.” WEEE compliance is necessary to have secure and mess-free recycling.

    Components Comprising Refractory Ceramic Fibres (RCFs)

    Respirable RCFs being a category 2 carcinogen, needs proper, safe handling. They have extensive use in domestic electrical appliances and heating devices. Look out for every appliance cautiously, and if they have RCFs, you need specific waste treatments.

    Treatment of WEEE

    The household machines and IT equipment make the largest WEEE waste volume collected every year. This electronic waste disposal contains unwanted components. Well, it also contains plenty of valuable materials such as metals and glass. Some metals offer safe exposure, but you will find harmful materials in this mix, too. That is why you must have a supervisor to limit the exposure to hazardous substances during WEEE recycling. If you want a detailed online guide on collecting WEEE and processing of WEEE, you can browse Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

    The treatment for WEEE disposal depends on the waste category. Considering their type of tech used, size, and material mixture, shredding technologies, manual disassembly, or automated destruction are selected. When the time comes for disassembly, keep the practices of DEFRA’s “Guidance on Best Available Treatment Recovery and Recycling Techniques (BATRRT)” and “treatment of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)” guidelines in mind. These guides will familiarize you with the standards of treatment, recycling, and recovery of materials.