Protocols issued for electronic waste

Protocols to help estimate the breakdown of mixed electrical and electronic waste from households into constituent categories and materials were published by the Environment Department (DEFRA) last week

The protocols simplify the data reporting requirements for companies falling under the electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) regulations.

From 1 July, producers will have to ensure WEEE is treated and recycled to meet targets for a range of different product categories. Producer compliance schemes must obtain evidence of compliance from authorised treatment facilities (AATF) or approved exporters. Evidence notes will have to include data on the categories and composition of materials within the WEEE received or exported for recycling or recovery.

DEFRA asked the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management Environmental Body to develop protocols to measure UK recycling/recovery rates. The Environment Agency will advise operators to use the protocol values to assume the breakdown of small mixed WEEE (SMW) into each WEEE category, as well as the material composition of each category. This will save AATFs from having to sort and measure quantities of constituents themselves.

A category protocol will be used to help apportion SMW collected from designated collection facilities into the different WEEE categories. The SMW category protocol does not cover large items, which are normally processed separately. The protocol assumes that the relative proportions of each category in SMW loads are:

  • 22.7% – IT and telecommunication equipment
  • 22.2% – consumer equipment
  • 19.9% – small household appliances
  • 10.3% – smaller items in category 1 (large household appliances) such as microwaves and air conditioning
  • 14% – non-WEEE (including lighting) and unallocated items
  • 10% – electrical and electronic tools
  • 0.3% – toys and leisure
  • 0.6% – monitoring equipment.

A small mixed WEEE composition protocol sets out the estimated proportions of materials in SMW as a whole. The protocol values are:

  • 47.1% – metals
  • 30.8% – plastic
  • 2.1% – PCBs
  • 6.1% – other materials
  • 14% – non-WEEE and unallocated materials.

The figures represent the maximum recovery rates that can be claimed for each material from SMW processing as evidence of compliance.

Further category composition protocols outline the typical proportions of metals, plastics, PCBs and other materials in each WEEE category. Compositional protocols are not provided for lighting, toys and leisure or monitoring equipment due to low volumes.

Separate composition protocols are provided for large white goods, fridges, cathode ray tubes (CRTs) in IT and telecoms equipment, and for CRTs in consumer equipment.