EA Circulates Hazardous WEEE Guidance

The Environment Agency has sent a letter to over 1,000 operators who deal with waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) outlining what they must do when processing hazardous material. The backdrop to this letter is the concern high levels of hazardous chemicals and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) can be found in plastic components, cable, and printed circuit boards. The appearance of these chemicals can make it particularly difficult to comply with legal requirements.

The Industry Council for Electronic Equipment Recycling (ICER) worked alongside Defra and the EA in an investigation into the appearance of these chemicals in a variety of WEEE. The investigation concluded that apart from non-cooling large domestic appliances (LDA), WEEE should normally be classed as hazardous unless an assessment has taken place.


The letter reminds operators they have a statutory Duty of Care which applies to waste they produce, transport, receive, treat, broker, or deal. This responsibility does not end when the waste is transferred to someone else, and if the waste is transferred to someone else the operator must ensure the person deals with it appropriately.

The letter provides guidance to operators concerning:
Waste collection and description, covering POPs waste status, of;

  • WEEE devices
  • Components removed from WEEE
  • Waste from treatment of WEEE

2. Management of waste containing Persistent Organic Pollutants
3. Hazardous Waste Controls
4. Export of WEEE or its components
5. Reuse of WEEE

The operator must correctly classify and describe waste, even if they have received the waste from someone else, the classification and description must be checked. The presence of hazardous chemicals and POPs must be clearly set out in the waste description. To assign a classification code the operator must assess the presence of hazardous chemical, the law prohibits assigning non-hazardous waste codes without making this assessment.

There is more detailed guidance in the letter, therefore we urge operators to read this guidance and to review their procedures and if necessary, make any changes needed in order to comply with the law.


The EA explain they will begin assessing compliance in the WEEE sector, and where non-compliance is found take the appropriate action, whether this be working with the operator in order to achieve compliance or taking enforcement action.

The letter reads, “Our initial compliance assessment focus will be on businesses who mis-describe hazardous and POPs waste, leading to it being subsequently mismanaged and / or exported without notification by them or those they transfer the waste to.”

The above gives an indication of where the EA will direct their efforts, emphasising the need for operators to check their current procedures are compliant, and if they are not, make the necessary changes to achieve compliance.

Click here to read the full letter.