Changes to the Landfill Directive and Special Waste Regulations mean that many electrical items are now classified as hazardous waste and must be treated as such. Certain hazardous wastes are prohibited from landfills. Only licensed contractors are able to remove hazardous waste, and the site producing the waste must be registered with the Environment Agency before a collection can take place.
Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) that is classified as hazardous waste includes WEEE that contains hazardous components or substances such as:
• polychlorinated biphenyls, eg in capacitors
• ozone-depleting substances, eg in fridges and freezers
• asbestos • fluorescent tubes
• nickel cadmium batteries
• cathode ray tubes, eg in some televisions and older computer monitors
• fluorescent tubes in laptop displays
What should I do?
1. Check if your WEEE is hazardous
Hazardous waste is defined by the European Waste Catalogue (EWC). The EWC has a six-digit code for all types of waste. Hazardous waste is identified in the EWC with an asterisk.
The EWC contains two kinds of hazardous waste entry:
• ‘Absolute’ entries are always hazardous. Examples include waste from the manufacture of specified acids, inorganic wood preservatives, and nickel cadmium batteries.
• ‘Mirror’ entries are only considered hazardous if they contain a certain hazardous component, or more than a specified amount of a hazardous substance. Examples include some wastes containing arsenic or mercury or displaying hazardous properties such as flammability. Many non-hazardous waste entries may also form part of a mirror entry. If this is the case you need to consider whether your waste contains hazardous components before you use a non-hazardous waste code
2. Register your premises with the Environment Agency
If you produce or hold 500 kilograms or more of hazardous waste in any 12-month period you must register your premises with the Environment Agency. When registered, you will be given a unique premises code. You need this code to allow someone to legally collect your hazardous waste. The code is valid for 12 months from the date you register. You can renew your registration up to one month before it expires. If you own multiple premises you must register each site individually. If you have multiple buildings on the same premises these only require one registration provided they are part of the same business. If you produce small amounts of waste at different customer premises, you may be able to remove their waste as a mobile service using your own premises registration. You will however still need to use consignment notes. You must store waste safely and securely to prevent pollution and keep different types of hazardous waste separate, and hazardous waste and non-hazardous waste separate. You can store waste securely on the site where it was produced for up to 12 months without an environmental permit while you wait for it to be collected. You can temporarily store waste produced on another site that you operate if you comply with the following conditions:
• The waste is stored for no longer than three months
• no more than 50 cubic metres of nonliquid waste is stored at any one time
3. Make sure all hazardous waste is:
• transported by a registered or exempt waste carrier
• accompanied by a consignment note (there are only a few exceptions where consignment notes are not required)
• sent to a facility that holds a suitable environmental permit or a registered exemption that authorises them to take that type of waste for the activity they intend
If you are responsible for disposing of WEEE and it contains hazardous substances you must make sure it is treated at an approved authorised treatment facility that is authorised to accept hazardous waste.
Organisations have a duty of care to ensure that wastes are consigned to registered carriers and properly stored and disposed of at appropriately licensed facilities. Directors, Managers and other employees who deal with environmental waste matters can all be held liable and face fines and imprisonment if laws are broken.
Disposal of WEEE poses a real threat of pollution. The WEEE Directive is, and subsequent regulations are, aimed at encouraging reuse and recycling, and minimising the negative environmental aspects of disposal. The Directive sets targets, for example, that 65% of IT equipment must be recycled, and materials such as CRT’s (monitors), LCD displays, printed circuit boards, batteries and flame retardant plastics be pre-treated before disposal. It also prioritises reuse as the best form of recycling. Just to confuse things further the WEEE Directive is now going through a recast process in Europe and a completely new set of regulations is expected by 2014.
One more pitfall when dealing with WEEE is the danger of data and licensed software which is stored, particularly on laptops and desktops, but which could also be on mobile phones, PDA’s, and some photocopiers. The WEEE Directive prioritises re-use of whole appliances as being at the top of the hierarchy of recycling. Facility Managers need to be aware of the dangers of unauthorised data release from equipment which may be under their control. All items which could potentially store data should be wiped using a product detailed in the CESG list of approved products for enhanced data wiping, prior to re-use. It is also important to remove all asset tags and company logo’s to guard against potential problems in the future.
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