WEEE Directive – Electrical Equipment

Electrical Equipment – Recycle Centres – WEEE

The waste and recycling industry has been known for the recycle of plastic. Currently, WEEE is now a specialist part of the industry. With the implementation of the 2006 WEEE regulations, which contained the original WEEE Directive in the UK, this sector has rapidly grown. They outlined the recovery, reuse, recycling and treatment of the electronic waste equipment. New regulations were announced in 2013 to replace those of the year 2006. According to the new regulations, the Directive 2012/19/EU were applicable to replace that of the Directive 2002/96/EC. They expanded on the range of products WEEE could cover and it would take effect starting on the 1st January 2019.

The department of Innovation and Skills provides you with more information on the WEEE regulations of the year 2013.

Approximately, two tonnes of these items are gotten rid of by homes and offices in the UK. The items that are normally used with a plug or a battery fall under WEEE items. These items have been classified under the new regulations. These are:

Large household appliances such as fridges, cookers, microwaves, washing machines and dishwashers.
Small household appliances such as vacuum cleaners, irons, toasters, and clocks.
IT and telecommunications equipment such as personal computers, coping devices, telephones and calculators.
Electrical tools such as drills, saws, sewing machines, and lawnmowers.
Lighting equipment such as fluorescent tubes and discharge lambs with high intensity.
Consumer equipment such as radios, T.Vs, hi-fi devices, camcorders and musical instruments requiring power supply.
Leisure, toys and sports equipment such as electric trains, and running machines.
Medical devices such as dialysis machines, analysers, medical freezers, and cardiology equipment.
Monitoring and controlling equipment such as smoke detectors, thermostats, as well as heating regulators.
Automatic dispensers such as hot drink dispensers and money dispensers.

As of the year 2019, this category is bound to expand to cover a larger variety of WEEE equipment. This is covered in the 3rd and 4th section of the regulations.

WEEE Directive

Treatment of WEEE

The large household appliances hold about 40% of WEEE. Other devices that are discarded in large numbers include IT equipment, which are majorly computers, televisions which surpass the 2million mark every year, small household appliances like kettles and driers, electrical tools, digital watches, electronic toys as well as medical devices.

Each of the above items is made of different materials. For example, televisions are made of 6% metal and 50% glass. Looking at a cooker, it is about 89% metal and 6% glass. The rest of the percentage material may be made of ceramics, plastic, or precious metals.

Due to the different materials involved, there must be health risk management with WEEE recycling. This is because some of the materials are toxic including mercury, cadmium, and lead. Some risks are pronounced when the recycling process is underway.

Lead and mercury are the most outstanding dangers exposed during this process. In this, you can be sure that once this is under control, other harzardous substances are well under control.

The provided treatment for WEEE varies depending on the category of equipment and the technology in use at the treatment facility. While some treatment facilities use large scale shredding, others will disassemble manually, automatically or using a combination of the two depending on the equipment.

DEFRA has provided minimum requirements for treatment facilities using disassembly operations. These is under DEFRA’s Best Available Treatment Recovery, and Recycling Techniques (BATRRT) and Waste and Electrical and Electronic Equipment PDF link to external website. This not only provides an overview on the expected standards but also on the basic requirements for substances that may increase the risk of safety as observed below.

Shredding operations for treatment facilities are required to remove these substances first and it does not rely on the technology in use or the size of the equipment. It is however advisable to remove hazardous components before the process to promote safety and minimize on risk of damaging the equipment.

The Waste Resources Action Program (WRAP) has allowed users view the expected practices of collecting and processing of WEEE online to the external link as provided below.

Guidance on specific substances:

Fluids: This are found more commonly to heating and cooling devices like fridges. According to the WEEE Directive, all fluids must be extracted before the shredding process begins. This helps to perverse the earth’s ozone layers as many cooling appliances come with refrigerants of about 15years are likely to emit ozone depleting substances.

Appliances containing ammonia such as fridges and coolers must be extracted of the ammonia and stored appropriately for safety. Ammonia is also known to increase the risk of fire. In this, it should be kept away from both the environment and fellow humans.

Capacitors containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs):PCB has been used in equipment that was created before the year 1972 because the use of this component was banned in that very year. By the year 2000, it was expected that equipment operating under this component would be extinct. However, if you are still using this kind of equipment, read through, “Do you know how to work safely with PCBs?”

Mercury containing components e.g. switches or back-lighting
You will find mercury in fluorescent lamps, most medical equipment, data transmission, telecommunications, and mobile phones. Though the use of mercury is not gaining favor with electronic equipment, you will still find it in batteries and on circuit boards when used with other equipment. In this, by removing the circuit, you are removing mercury.

Other equipment requiring special treatment are the non-CRT panel screens such as LCD, laptops, desk top monitors, as well as plasma screens. According to research, the number of plasma screens being discarded is on the increase. These equipment needs mercury for them to light up. They all contain different amounts of mercury. Removal and treatment of mercury comes with safety and health risks.

Toner Cartridges, liquid and paste and color toner: These components are mostly found in printers, fax machines, as well as photocopiers. It is advisable that they are removed whole without interference and stored in labeled containers for safety purposes.

Asbestos waste and asbestos containing components: This component has been in use for equipment such as electronic coffee pots, toasters, and irons. This is because this equipment needs to adopt heat resistant properties. Though it is not in use currently, it is important for treatment facilities to remain cautious. Some equipment can actually be very old. All equipment containing asbestos should be handled in accordance to the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2006.

Lead and other substances including phosphorous pentachloride in CRTs: These substances can be addressed as you process the glass which helps to remove the fluorescent coating.

Components containing refractory ceramic fibres (RCFs): This is a common substance acting as a lining on kilns, furnaces, and heaters. These are used on both domestic equipment and building heating equipment. For every equipment you may think contains RFCs, it is important to analyse it and take the necessary steps to ensure it is removes safely.

Component containing radioactive substances: These are commonly located on a commercial setting and on smoke detectors. These include; static eliminators, old trim phones etc.

Other hazards associated with WEEE recycling
Machinery safety: During the various processes, recycling plants use a number of machinery for crushing, grinding, conveying, baling, compacting and pallestising.

MSDs: This is specific to manual handling. Some equipment such as fridges can be heavy.

WRULDS: This is ideal for movements that are repetitive in an effort to remove wiring looms.

Cuts and abrasion risks: This risk may come from the use of knives which are used to remove antibreak coatings as well as sharp edges on equipment.

Stacking on items of WEEE: It is a rule of thumb that the height of the piled on goods should not exceed three times the minimum base dimensions.

Electrical safety: It is important to have tests on electrical concerns from time to time.

Fire and explosion risks: This can be increased by hydrocarbons and ammonia in fridges or freezers. This is flammable and the batteries should be removed. Due to safety reasons, you need to store them in wel labelled containers so everyone can treat them with the care they deserve.