• International Workplace
  • 18 July 2007

WEEE survey: results in

Despite the fact that the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations 2006 are now fully in force, it would appear that a large proportion of employers are still unclear about how the legislation affects their business.

Workplace Law Network’s survey this week asked three simple questions about WEEE. Over 250 managers responded, and the results make interesting reading.

Q. What equipment falls under the Regulations?
The results were split evenly down the middle, with 49% believing the majority of electrical and electronic equipment fell under the Regulations, with very limited exceptions, and 48% believing all electrical and electronic equipment fell under the Regulations, with no exceptions. The remaining 3% were unsure.

There are many obvious and clear cut examples of what should be reported as Electrical and Electronic Equipment, but there are also many grey areas – either where products do not fit into a specific category or where they may or may not be considered as needing electricity for their primary function, and it is for the producer to decide whether they have a defensible reason for excluding something that may be in the ‘grey’ zone. In these cases, the enforcement agencies may challenge the decision and if the company refuses to comply, take that company to court for a legal decision.

Q. As a business, can you get your WEEE disposed of, free of charge?

Again, opinion was divided, although the majority (55%) believed that they were not entitled to free disposal of their business WEEE. 31% thought they were entitled, and 14% were unsure, proving how much confusion there is in this area.

If the equipment was placed on the market after August 2005, it is classed as ‘New’, and the Regulations require the producer to collect it free of charge at the end of its life, although the producer can pass on the costs to its customer if mutually agreed in the terms and conditions of supply.
However, the Regulations do not specify when the equipment should be collected, only that it must be collected free of charge to the end user (unless they have contracted-out that responsibility in the terms and conditions).

Q. If you are replacing an item of WEEE, does the retailer have to take back the old one?

The majority (56%) thought the retailer is entitled to take back the old item, if it is being replaced. 36% did not think they had this responsibility, whilst 8% were unsure.

Retailers are classified as distributors under the Regulations. Distributors of household Electrical and Electronic Equipment have two choices:

  • From 1 July, they can offer to take back WEEE from their customers on a one-for-one and like-for-like basis when their customers purchase a new product, or within a reasonable time afterwards; or
  • They can opt out of in-store take-back by registering with the Distributor Take-back Scheme, paying a one-off fee into a fund which is paid to Local Authorities.

However, if distributors only sell equipment to businesses, they have no obligation to take-back WEEE; businesses need to contact the producer.

The complicated issue of WEEE has no straightforward answers. To help businesses comply with the Regulations, Workplace Law Group has launched the Guide to WEEE 2007. This downloadable guide, written in plain English by Phil Conran, General Manager of Recycling Development at Biffa Waste Services, explains exactly what responsibilities are imposed on producers, distributors and end-users of electrical and electronic products.

Workplace Law would like to thank everyone who took part in the survey. A bottle of champagne and a free copy of the Guide to WEEE 2007 are on their way to Allan Craven from The Linde Group who was drawn from our list of 253 people who took part in the survey.