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The WEEE Directive

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)

In the UK any surplus, broken, obsolete and thrown out electrical and electronic devices come under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive. Mobile phones and parts of mobile phones fall into this category of waste. The manufacturers of any goods that fall under this directive are responsible for its disposal according to the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive 2002/96/EC. Any goods that are known to be hazardous to the environment have to be disposed of in particular ways according to The Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS) 2002/95/EC.

Recycling targets

As well as putting the responsibility of disposal onto the manufacturers of certain electrical and electronic devices, the WEEE directive also insists that specific recycling targets are met. Not only that but they also insist manufacturers also collect and recover these items so they are moved out of harm's way and don't become a threat to the environment.

What about mobile phone manufacturers?

Companies who make or import mobile phones into the UK have a huge responsibility when it comes to disposing of the waste correctly. The responsibility that's given to them ensures they collect and recover the products, or they recycle any waste that has been created.

But this is not where the WEEE Directives involvement stops; they also ask the manufacturers of the phones to:

  • Use special bins that have a crossed out bin symbol on them as a way of indicating where unused mobile phones and their parts can be discarded
  • To make sure that anyone who wants to discard mobile phones in their bins can do so with relative ease
  • To make sure all the WEEE waste is recorded and accounted for until it is disposed of safely
  • To report to the Environment Agency and supply them with thorough details about their waste disposal procedures.

What about us?

The responsibility of disposal has not been put upon the consumers, but the British government has asked every consumer to be careful about how they dispose of waste. The government asks us to make sure mobile phones, which are often referred to as 'e-waste' are disposed of correctly so they're not a threat to the environment. Separating e-waste from the usual household waste can help to eliminate those harmful toxins affecting our environment.

Check with your local council to see if they provide a free collection service for any product that comes under the WEEE directive.

What about shops?

Shops and other retailers that sell mobile phones to the general public have been asked by the WEEE directive to ensure they make their customers aware of the environmental impact these goods have. Customers are also informed they need to keep unused mobile phones away from regular household waste and to dispose of it in a safe manner or consider recycling the product.

Many shops now offer a 'Take back' scheme which allows their customers to drop off and recycle their unwanted mobiles in-store or at a specific collection point.

Selling to businesses

Shops who sell mobile phones to businesses should be aware that under the Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive, there are no set requirements for disposal of unused mobile phones. However the business itself will need to make sure certain procedures are carried out. These procedures include using a registered waste carrier who knows how to dispose of the waste correctly.