1. Home
  2. Digital Courses
  3. Waste Electronic and Electrical regulations (WEEE)
  4. 2 – The types of electronic and electrical equipment covered by WEEE regulations

2 – The types of electronic and electrical equipment covered by WEEE regulations

This topic will provide learners with a comprehensive understanding of the different types of electronic and electrical equipment covered by the WEEE regulations and the characteristics of each type of equipment. It will help learners understand the scope of the regulations and how they apply to different types of equipment, as well as the potential environmental hazards and the resources that can be recovered from the different types of equipment. Additionally, it will help learners understand the importance of proper disposal and recycling of the different types of equipment.

A detailed list of the types of electronic and electrical equipment covered by the WEEE regulations

Equipment TypeCharacteristicsPotential Environmental HazardsResources that can be recovered
Large household appliancesUsed in households, they have a lifespan of several years, made of various materials such as metals, plastics, and glass.Hazardous substances leakage, fire hazardsMetals, plastics, and glass
Small household appliancesUsed in households, they have a lifespan of several years, made of various materials such as metals, plastics, and glass.Hazardous substances leakage, fire hazardsMetals, plastics, and glass
IT and telecommunications equipmentUsed in households and businesses, with several years of lifespan, are made of various materials such as metals, plastics, and glass.Hazardous substances leakage, fire hazardsMetals, plastics, and glass
Consumer equipmentUsed in households, they have a lifespan of several years, made of various materials such as metals, plastics, and glass.Hazardous substances leakage, fire hazardsMetals, plastics, and glass
Lighting equipmentUsed in households and businesses, they have a lifespan of several years, made of various materials such as metals, plastics, and glass.Hazardous substances leakage, fire hazardsMetals, plastics

The resources that can be recovered from each type of equipment

The resources that can be recovered from each type of equipment covered by WEEE regulations vary depending on the type of equipment but generally include the following:

  • Metals: Many types of electronic and electrical equipment contain valuable metals such as copper, gold, silver, and aluminium. These metals can be recovered through the process of recycling and can be used to make new products.
  • Plastics: Many types of electronic and electrical equipment contain plastics that can be recovered through recycling and used to make new products.
  • Glass: Many types of electronic and electrical equipment contain glass which can be recovered through recycling and used to make new products.
  • Other materials: Other materials that can be recovered from electronic and electrical equipment include rubber, ceramics, and precious stones. These materials can be recovered through recycling and can be used to make new products.

It’s important to note that the recovery of these resources from electronic and electrical equipment depends on the quality of the recycling process, the type of equipment, and the condition of the equipment. Some materials may be more easily recovered than others, and some types of equipment may contain more of these resources than others.

Recovering resources from electronic waste not only helps conserve natural resources but also reduces the environmental impacts of extracting new materials and helps to create jobs in the recycling and recovery industry.

Guidance on specific substances/components

The DEFRA document “Guidance on Best Available Treatment Recovery and Recycling Techniques (BATRRT) and treatment of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)” guide the best available treatment, recovery, and recycling techniques for various substances and components found in electronic and electrical equipment. The guidance is based on the latest scientific and technical information. It is intended to help operators of electronic and electrical waste treatment facilities in the UK to comply with their legal obligations under the WEEE regulations.

The document provides guidance on the treatment of specific substances and components found in electronic and electrical equipment, including:

  • Heavy metals, such as lead, cadmium, and mercury. The guidance recommends using specific treatment techniques, such as smelting, to recover these metals and reduce their environmental impact.
  • Batteries and accumulators. The guidance recommends using specific treatment techniques, such as thermal treatment, to recover metals and chemicals from batteries and accumulators and reduce their environmental impact.
  • Printed circuit boards (PCBs). The guidance recommends using specific treatment techniques, such as mechanical and chemical processing, to recover metals and other materials from PCBs and reduce their environmental impact.
  • Cathode ray tubes (CRTs). The guidance recommends using specific treatment techniques, such as mechanical processing and thermal treatment, to recover metals and other materials from CRTs and reduce their environmental impact.

The document also provides guidance on other aspects of electronic and electrical waste treatment, including:

  • Using the best available techniques to reduce emissions and minimise the environmental impact of electronic and electrical waste treatment facilities.
  • The use of the best available techniques to prevent and control the release of hazardous substances from electronic and electrical waste treatment facilities.
  • Use the best available techniques to ensure the safe and environmentally sound disposal of electronic and electrical waste.
  • The use of the best available techniques to ensure the recovery and recycling of valuable materials from electronic and electrical waste.
Case Study
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were widely used as dielectric and coolant fluids in electrical equipment, particularly in capacitors, from the 1920s to the 1970s. PCBs were valued for their chemical stability, high boiling point, and non-flammability, making them useful in various industrial and commercial applications. However, it was later discovered that PCBs are highly toxic and can adversely affect human health and the environment. In the 1970s, evidence emerged of PCBs’ environmental and health risks. Studies showed that PCBs were persistent in the environment and could accumulate in the food chain, leading to potential health effects in animals and humans. As a result of these concerns, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the production, distribution, and use of PCBs in 1979. In the following years, regulations were put in place globally to phase out PCBs’ use and properly dispose of equipment containing PCBs. This includes the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, a global treaty to eliminate or restrict the production and use of persistent organic pollutants, including PCBs. However, equipment containing PCBs still exists due to the widespread use of PCBs in the past. It is important to properly dispose of this equipment to avoid the release of PCBs into the environment and potential exposure to humans. Disposing of equipment containing PCBs requires specialised handling and treatment due to the hazardous nature of PCBs. It should be done in compliance with the regulations in the specific country or region.

Test your knowledge

Was this Topic helpful?

Related Topics