WEEE Recycling


How to recycle electricals, computers and phones

Electronic items are notoriously difficult to recycle. Unlike, say, an empty bottle of milk or a cardboard box, you can’t just pop an electrical device out onto the street and expect it to be picked up with the rest of your recycling. This unfortunately means that many people decide not to recycle their electricals, leading to around 60% of e-waste ending up on landfills.

However, Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) recycling is just as important as recycling non-electronic items, and whilst doing so isn’t as easy, there are still ways to get electronic devices recycled. Many of us don’t have the first idea how to go about doing this. But with over a billion new mobile phones, TV’s and laptops bought worldwide every year, it’s something people need to learn about. This article will explore why it’s so difficult to recycle such devices, why it’s important to do so, and how exactly to go about getting them recycled.

Why is it so difficult to dispose of electrical items?

Electricals are difficult to recycle because, unlike most typical household items, they contain an array of different materials. All of these components must be separated from one another in order to be recycled, and this is a complex process that requires specialist handling. It is important to recycle electronic goods as many of the materials they are made of—like metal, glass and plastic—can be reused, and are things we typically recycle.

Not only does the number of different materials make such items difficult to recycle, but many of the more unique components they are made of—such as lead, mercury and cadmium—can be hazardous. Lead exposure can cause brain damage in children, mercury can cause brain and kidney damage, and cadmium poisons the kidneys.

This makes the recycling process even more complex, as these materials must be removed extremely carefully due to the health and safety risks. The dangers of these items means they shouldn’t simply be thrown onto a landfill (as they regularly are), as this could cause them to leach into the environment, leading to pollution and potentially harming the public.

How does electrical recycling work

The treatment of WEEE items varies from the type of device and technology that is used. Broadly, after they have been collected and transported to recycling facilities, the hazardous materials are removed and disposed of to avoid health risks. The other components are then separated so they can be recycled and used in new products. Initial shredding of the items facilitates this, before the plastics are separated from the metals and the internal circuitry.

A magnet attracts the iron and steel from the material stream, which is largely plastic, before the copper, aluminium and circuit boards are separated. The aluminum, copper, steel and circuit boards are then collected and sold as recycled commodities. Water separation technology is also used to separate glass from plastics.

Some electronic items have separate components that need to be handled differently. For example, cathode ray tubes, usually found in old televisions and computer monitors, are more difficult to recycle. This is because toxins (including lead) found in CRT’s are among the most dangerous, and the monitor body must first be separated so the CRT can be removed from within. Fluids contained in some appliances, such as freezers and fridges, must also be removed prior to shredding.

Where can I recycle my electronic devices?

As part of our services here at Clearance Solutions, we offer IT and WEEE disposal. Our service is a sustainable, convenient and cost-effective way of disposing of your electronic goods. We will not only collect and dispose of your electronic items for you, but we strive to have as many of these recycled as we can. If they can’t be recycled, we will make sure that they are processed in the most environmentally friendly way possible. We will provide you with an Environmental Report to show you exactly how much CO2 was saved through the reuse of your items, and will take into consideration the resale value of these items in the price we charge you, saving you money.

If you’d like to recycle your old phones and computers yourself, there are two ways to do this. Under the WEEE directive, all retailers must provide their customers with a way to dispose of their electrical goods when they sell them a new version of that product. Get in contact with your retailer to arrange this. Alternatively, you could take these items to your nearest local recycling centre.

E-waste is a global issue – here’s how WEEE can help

We recently discussed the WEEE recycling policy and the duty of care that businesses must be aware of when disposing of electronic waste.

As we mentioned, using a licensed waste contractor such as Clearance Solutions is a guaranteed way for businesses to ensure that they fulfill their duty of care.

E-waste can cause serious problems for the environment, and it is important that individuals and businesses alike give consideration to how they treat their electronic products when they need to dispose of them.

At Clearance Solutions we are proud to set the right example in WEEE recycling, but according to recent reports, it seems the rest of the world has some significant catching up to do.


The current state of e-waste

A report released by the United Nations University last month says less than one sixth of the world’s electronic waste is being recycled or reused.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, just seven percent of e-waste recorded last year was made up of mobile phones, personal computers, printers and small IT equipment.

The vast majority of waste came from typical electrical appliances found in homes and businesses, with 12.8 metric tonnes of small equipment (vacuum cleaners, microwaves, toasters), 11.8Mt of large equipment (washing machines, dishwashers, electric stoves) and 6.3 Mt of screens being recorded.

A recent report by the UN Environment Programme has given insight into where this non recycled and unused waste is going.

According to Unep, up to 90% of e-waste is illegally dumped or traded.

Despite a ban on hazardous waste being exported from EU and OECD Member States to non-OECD countries, Unep say thousands of tonnes of e-waste are being falsely declared as second-hand goods and being exported from developed to developing countries.

On a local and global scale, Unep warns that the mishandling of e-waste, along with food waste, discarded chemicals and municipal waste, is having a seriously negative impact on the environment and the economy.

The benefits of efficient e-waste recycling

The global waste and recycling market is currently worth over £250 billion per year, but it is not just the economy which would benefit from increased recycling.

Clearance Solutions believe heavily in proper e-waste recycling, because valuable materials that are being extracted from electronic devices would otherwise be taken as raw materials from the earth. Reusing these materials will save on energy, reduce pollution, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and contribute to keeping those materials in the ground.

Through the WEEE scheme, the environment is also protected from the toxic waste and chemicals of electronic products which needlessly go into landfill sites.

How to combat e-waste

Calls for stricter legislation on e-waste have been made, Unep also want to see greater work going into the recovery of valuable metals and other resources which are contained within electronic products.

On an individual level, e-waste needs to be managed consciously. By organising the electronic products you currently have, it is easy to work out what items you no longer need and arrange for them to either be properly recycled or (ideally) passed on for someone else to use.

Clearance Solutions are always on-hand to rid homes and offices of any unwanted electronic products under the EU’s WEEE scheme. But rest assured that if we fail to sell or donate these items, they will not be contributing to the global issue of illegally dumped e-waste.

How WEEE recycling works and your Duty of Care

The term WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) has become increasingly well known in the UK since the EU’s WEEE directive in 2007.

Thanks to the directive, legislation was put in place to ensure that member states monitored how their waste electrical equipment was collected and processed. This in turn created targets to improve recycling and recovery levels.

In short, it was great news for the environment.

So, what constitutes WEEE legally?

The simplest definition is: any electrical item the holder is discarding or required to discard. For example, anything with a plug or that uses a battery and is to be discarded. This includes anything you throw away or send to be prepared for reuse, recycling or another form of recovery.

Due to the emergence of increasingly affordable technology in recent years, it is one of the fastest growing types of waste, and one that we’ve started seeing an increasing amount of in typical office clearances.

Understanding your Duty of Care

Businesses have a legal responsibility to ensure that all the waste they produce is dealt with in accordance with waste regulations. This guarantees that businesses are behaving responsibly through preventing wasteful practices.

This responsibility is known as Duty of Care, and it extends to how WEEE is stored, transported and disposed of. The Duty of Care lasts from the moment that the WEEE is produced until it is finally treated, reused, recovered and disposed of.

In practice, one of the most important measures a business can take to fulfil their Duty of Care is through entrusting their WEEE to a licensed and authorised waste contractor or facility like Clearance Solutions. The business must check that the correct documentation is provided by the waste contractor. This documentation is called a Waste Transfer Notice. If a company does not have this documentation they probably aren’t worth using.

Businesses that collect and process WEEE and other types of waste are regulated and need to be properly authorised. Collectors of waste need a Waste Carriers Licence, and WEEE recycling, treatment and disposal facilities need to be registered as an Approved Authorised Treatment Facility (AATF).

You can check whether a company is correctly licensed by viewing the environmental agency’s public register.

Waste Transfer Notices

Waste Transfer Notices (WTNs) are effectively receipts that state the waste has been collected and transferred to a third party. They provide an audit trail for the waste, and indicate that waste has been dealt with in accordance with the law.

All businesses must complete Waste Transfer Notices from any third party that they transfer waste to.

If WEEE is collected by a waste carrier, it is the holder’s responsibility to ensure that any subsequent waste transfers are also properly authorised. If in doubt ask the collector for the details. Businesses are required to keep a copy of WTNs on file for at least two years.

Waste Transfer Notices need to include all of the following information:

– Who the current holder of the waste is;

– Who the collector is;

– A brief description of the waste and the relevant EWC code*;

– The quantity of waste;

– How the waste is contained (i.e. loose, in sacks, in a skip);

– A box to tick to confirm the Waste Hierarchy has been adhered to;

– The place, date and time of transfer;

– Details of the permit, licence or exemption of the person collecting or receiving the waste;

– The Standard Industry Code (SIC) of your business;

– Signatures of both parties.


* Different types of waste have specific codes called European Waste Classification (EWC) codes. They help the management and tracking of waste streams.

WTNs need to be in triplicate, one for the transferor (holder), one for the Transferee (collector), and one for the receiving Approved Authorised Treatment Facility (AATF).

Hazardous WEEE

Some types of WEEE are classed as hazardous materials. Cathode ray tubes, LCD screens, fluorescent light bulbs and refrigeration equipment are common examples.

Hazardous WEEE is dealt with differently from regular WEEE. When Hazardous WEEE is being disposed of, Hazardous Waste Consignment Notices are needed instead of a Waste Transfer Notice. Always be aware which of the two you are disposing of in order to dispose of them correctly.

Clearance Solutions Ltd is a Licenced Waste Carrier and specialise in WEEE collections and recycling. Please contact [email protected] or call 020 7706 7554 for more information.


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