WEEE scope, timeline
The goal of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) is to properly manage waste from electronic and electric equipment (e-waste) and reduce its volume through the collection, re-use, recycling and recovery of discarded end-of-life products.
Founded on the notion of Extended Producer Responsibility, WEEE requires the original Producers of these goods to ensure their take-back and recycling within the countries of the European Union (EU). End consumers must not face any additional cost at the moment of the disposal.
The revised version of this legislation, known officially as WEEE Directive 2012/19/EU and published in issue L197 of the Official Journal on 24 July 2012, introduced a provision on the disposal of photovoltaic (PV) modules for the first time. Article 2,(1), a. clearly foresees a take-back obligation for discarded PV modules.
The UK, Bulgaria, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are the only countries to have transposed the Directive before the official deadline. The adopted national WEEE law applies to the local Producers right after its transposition. The main purpose is to better define the legal obligations of Producers in each country.
It is mandatory for PV module Producers to comply with WEEE, notwithstanding weather the country they operate in has already laid out other set of rules, such as energy relating legislation.
What is Household WEEE and Professional WEEE?
Household WEEE or officially ‘WEEE from private households’ is understood as electric and electronic equipment (EEE) waste coming from private households as well as WEEE coming from commercial, industrial, institutional and other sources which, due to its nature and quantity, is similar to waste from private households.
Waste from EEE likely to be used by both private households and users other than private households (so-called ‘Dual Use’) must be considered as being WEEE from private households in any circumstance.
Professional WEEE or officially ‘WEEE from non-households’ is, in practice, waste in larger quantities, coming from commercial, industrial, institutional and other sources.
Are there any differences between new and historic waste?
Yes, and they are very relevant.
A. Household WEEE
The Directive introduced a differentiation in the financing of waste management for products that were placed on the market on 13 August 2005 or before (‘historical waste’) and after that date (‘new waste’). While for new waste each Producer is responsible for the financing of the take-back and recycling, for historical waste WEEE management costs will be borne by one or more collective systems to which all Producers existing on the market contribute to proportionally.
Such schemes take responsibility over from their members (Producers) by directly collecting the financial means from the Producers (for ‘new waste’) and indirectly from the end-customers or users (for the ‘historical waste’).
Similar take-back schemes or Producer Responsibility Organisations (PRO) exist in Europe for waste other than electric or electrical equipment, e.g. packaging, end-of-life vehicles and batteries.
Since PV modules have only been under the scope of WEEE since 2012, some uncertainty remains about the cut-off date for PV module waste because the directive is yet to be transposed into national laws. It would be advisable that the financing of PV waste treatment would only apply as from the date of entering into force of the transposition of WEEE into national legislation, February 2014 at the latest.
B. Professional WEEE
For ‘new waste’, the Producer must ensure the financing of the cost for collection, treatment, recovery and environmentally-sound disposal of WEEE.
For historical waste being replaced by new, equivalent products or by new products fulfilling the same function, the financing of these costs must be provided for by the Producers of those products when supplying them. Each Member State of the European Union may, as an alternative, make users other than private households partly or totally responsible for this financing.
For other historical waste, the financing of the costs must be provided for by users other than private households.
Producers and users other than private households may also, without prejudice to this Directive, conclude agreements stipulating other financing methods.