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How to get rid of your Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)

September 19, 2017

How to dispose of old electronicsThe digital age is showing no signs of slowing down and there is now a greater range and scope of technology on the market than ever before.

As the demand for and the production of the latest technology increases, so does the need for efficient and eco-friendly disposal methods of old electronic equipment.

This is just as important for small businesses as it is for large businesses. If you’re a small organisation wanting to understand how you can get rid of your electronic waste efficiently and cost-effectively, read on to discover the world of WEEE recycling and disposal.

What is WEEE?

WEEE is an acronym for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. Every year, it’s estimated 2 million tonnes of WEEE are disposed of by households and organisations in the UK alone.

Almost all electrical appliances count as WEEE, including those that plug in or need a battery. According to government regulations, the main categories are:

  • Large household appliances – e.g. fridges and washing machines
  • Small household electricals – e.g. toasters
  • IT and telecommunications – e.g. PCs and mobile phones
  • Lighting equipment – e.g. fluorescent tube lights
  • Electrical tools – e.g. drills and sewing machines
  • Toys, leisure and sports equipment – e.g. electric trains and exercise machines
  • Medical devices – e.g. dialysis machines and medical freezers
  • Monitoring and control equipment – e.g. smoke detectors and heating regulators
  • Automatic dispensers – e.g. hot drinks machines

Why is it important to dispose of WEEE properly?

These electrical appliances, as well as many others, contain a wide variety of materials. Some of these include hazardous substances such as arsenic and mercury. Exposure to these hazardous materials can pose significant health risks, as well as damage to the environment.

Cooling appliances make up most of the non-household WEEE in the UK, with almost 2,000 tonnes of it being collected between January and June 2017. Cooling appliances that are 10 to 15 years old, are more likely to contain refrigerants that contain Ozone Depleting Substances such as chlorofluorocarbons.

Whilst most of these substances are non-toxic, they are known to cause harm to our atmosphere by depleting the earth’s Ozone layer, leaving us vulnerable to the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Opting for good waste practises such as WEEE recycling and disposal of WEEE at verified treatment facilities can not only protect our health, but also protect our environment.

How much does WEEE disposal and treatment cost?

The cost of WEEE disposal is relative to how much waste your organisation actually produces. Retailers and producers of electrical goods, will incur larger costs than a small, office-based firm wanting to dispose of a few unwanted computers.

Disposal of large appliances such as a fridge or washing machine, can range from around £15-20 per item plus collection fees. Whereas some firms operate on a ‘pay by weight’ basis, where you pay £0.25 per kilo (for example), to dispose of a range of WEEE.

It’s all about shopping around and seeing which company can offer you the best deal that suits your needs. However, there are also some free WEEE drop-off sites to take advantage of, if your organisation is a charity, housing association or a retailer or distributor.

If you fail to comply with the government’s WEEE regulations, this can have significant financial consequences.

Business who fail to comply with this legislation can face fines of up to £5000, or an unlimited fine from the Crown Court. So in order to keep costs down, it’s important to dispose of WEEE appropriately, to reduce the risk of incurring government penalties.

WEEE recycling

WEEE recycling is one of the most environmentally friendly ways you can get rid of your electronic waste. There are a multitude of different companies that provide this service, and this can give you peace of mind that your goods are being disposed of legally and in an eco-friendly manner.

WEEE recycling companies can recycle any of the products in the categories mentioned above, and these are disposed of in a variety of ways.

Your unused goods can be reused or refurbished so that they can be used by other organisations. Alternatively, goods that are no longer fit for use are taken to a recycling plant to recover the raw materials that can be used in other products.

Upcycling

Upcycling is a great way to find new uses for your old and unused WEEE. If your organisation has laptops or computers that are no longer in use, it may be worth seeing which components are worth keeping.

Keeping hold of old laptop batteries, chargers and RAM, is a good idea if you work frequently with computers. These components can usually be used with other computers or can be sold on.

Donation

For firms in certain industries, constantly having to keep up-to-date with the latest technology can mean that perfectly good, older models of computers and laptops can go to waste.

Donating your older models to organisations such as charities, provides a new home for your unwanted goods and means that you don’t have to pay for disposal costs.

Many city councils up and down the UK can provide guidance on how to donate your unwanted items to those in need. Visit the UK’s government website to find out more information.

Sell your unwanted devices

If you have waste electronics that are fit for use, it’s always worth seeing if you can sell your items before deciding to dispose of them.

This can provide an injection of cash flow into your business, without having to worry about disposal and treatment costs.

Online marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon allow you to sell your goods and state what condition they are in so that buyers can make an informed decision on whether or not to purchase.

About the author

This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Envirowaste, London’s most environmentally friendly waste clearance company.