WEEE – the new EU recycling law and what it means

January 11, 2007 at 12:00 pm

Another EU recycling law came into force in January 2007, this time allowing consumers to recycle all their old electronic and electrical equipment for free. The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE ) law was adopted by the UK on 1 January, and will become fully effective in July 2007. The WEEE ensures that consumers can return all their old electrical equipment to the manufacturer who is responsible for recycling or reusing it in an environmental friendly way.

The WEEE directive was initially agreed by European countries in 2003, and up until now it had been adopted by all EU states apart from the UK and Malta. The WEEE was originally intended to be adopted by the UK in August 2005, but its introduction was delayed several times by the Department of Trade and Industry.

WEEE could mean that the cost of electrical goods increases as manufactures try to reclaim the price of recycling from the consumer. Research by the Analyst group Gartner suggests that the average cost of a PC could increase by around €60 or £33 (see However, recycling should be seen as a last resort as electrical goods, such as old PCs, can be reused by charities, schools and in the developing world.

Full adoption of the WEEE is becoming increasing important because electrical waste is now the fastest growing type of rubbish within the EU. Consumption of electrical goods is greater than ever as people try to keep up to date with the latest technological developments, and discarded electronic goods are having an enormous and potentially devastating impact on the environment.

The WEEE and the problem of electronic waste has been creatively captured in a 7 metre high sculpture situated on London’s South Bank. The aptly named WEEE man is built from 3.3 tonnes of electrical goods, the average amount of electrical goods used by an individual during their lifetime.

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