WEEE: Obligations on B2B producers

The WEEE Directive encourages the design and production of electrical and electronic equipment to facilitate its repair, possible upgrading, re-use, disassembly and recycling at end-of-life. From August 2005, it makes producers in the ten product categories responsible for financing the collection of their products at end-of-life and meeting targets for its recycling and recovery. We have developed a package of WEEE services to assist B2B companies to address these issues.

A producer is defined as any organisation that, irrespective of the selling technique used:

  1. is established in a Member State and manufactures EEE under his own name or Trademark and markets it under his name or trade mark within the territory of that Member State,
  2. is established in a Member State and resells within the territory of that Member State, under his own name or trade mark, equipment produced by other suppliers
  3. is established in a Member State and places on the market of that Member State, on a professional basis, EEE from a third country or from another Member State
  4. sells EEE by means of distance communication directly to private households or to users other than private households in a Member State, and is established in another Member State or in a third country.

In the case of 1 and 2 above, the responsibility for compliance with the WEEE Directive rests with the organisation that owns the brand name which is displayed on the product. The brand name referred to here is the brand name under which the product is sold, and does not imply any responsibility for organisations which own brand names of components that may be contained within the product. For example, a Sony PlayStation contains a power supply unit supplied by Philips and displaying the Philips brand name. There is no producer obligation on Philips under the WEEE Directive, the producer obligation rests 100% with Sony.

Crossed out wheelie bin

Products put on the market after August 2005 must be marked clearly to identify the producer. Products put on the market after August 2005 must also be marked with a crossed-out wheelie bin and a black bar or date of manufacture to clearly identify that they were put on the market after 13 August 2005.

Producers are required to provide information on request on components and materials used in new types of equipment put on the market after August 2005 to enable treatment facilities, re-use centres and recycling facilities to disassemble, re-use and recycle them. Producers are also required to provide information on request to treatment facilities to identify specific components and materials in the equipment which must be removed, as listed in Annex II of the WEEE Directive, including:

  • Batteries;
  • Printed circuit boards in mobile phones and those greater than 10cm²;
  • Plastic containing brominated flame retardants;
  • Electrolyte capacitors containing substances of concern (height > 25mm, diameter > 25mm or proportionately similar volume);
  • Capacitors containing polychlorinated biphenyls;
  • Cathode ray tubes (fluorescent coating must be removed);
  • Gas discharge lamps (mercury must be removed);
  • Liquid crystal displays > 100 cm² and all those back-lighted with discharge lamps;
  • External electric cables;
  • Components containing mercury (e.g. switches, backlighting lamps).

The Directive indicates that priority should be given to the repair, upgrade and re-use of whole products for their original purpose. Where re-use of whole appliances is not appropriate, producers must arrange for target levels of re-use and recycling and recovery of WEEE to be met. Producers are required to report recycling data on a regular basis (i.e. quarterly or annually) to the WEEE agency in Member States for products that are separately collected in the Member State.

Product Categories and Minimum End-of-life Re-use, Recycling and Recovery Targets Set by the WEEE Directive
Product category 1
(See Annex 1B of the WEEE Directive for full list of items in each category)
WEEE reuse and recycling targetsWEEE recovery target 2
1. Large household appliances (e.g. fridges, washing machines, electric ovens) 75% 80%
2. Small household appliances (e.g. vacuum cleaners, toasters, irons, clocks, scales) 50% 70%
3. IT and Telecommunication equipment (e.g. computers, photocopiers, telephones) 65% 75%
4. Consumer equipment (e.g. televisions, video recorders, Hi-fi equipment) 65% 75%
5. Lighting equipment (e.g. fluorescent lamps, discharge lamps) 80% N/A
6. Electrical and electronic tools (e.g. drills, sewing machines, lawnmowers) 50% 70%
7. Toys, leisure and sports equipment (e.g. video games and consoles, train sets) 50% 70%
8. Medical equipment systems (e.g. radiotherapy equipment, pulmonary ventilators) 50% 3 70% 3
9. Monitoring and control equipment (e.g. thermostats, control panels) 50% 70%
10. Automatic dispensers (e.g. drinks machines) 75% 80%

1 Applies to products with a voltage of up to 1,000 volts and 1,500 volts DV

2 The recovery target include energy recovery in a power plant, in addition to WEEE re-use and recycling

3 From 13 August 2012 as specified in the WEEE Recast (2012/19/EU)

For the purposes of calculating these targets, producers, business customers or third parties acting on their behalf will be required to keep records on the:

  • total weight of WEEE entering treatment facilities;
  • weight of whole appliances which are re-used for their original purpose (this does not count towards meeting recycling and recovery targets);
  • weight of components, sub-assemblies and consumables which are re-used for their original purpose or recycled;
  • weight of WEEE where energy is recovered in a power plant;
  • weight of remaining WEEE which is disposed of to landfill.
Calculator to assess compliance with WEEE targets
Weight of WEEE collected A … … kg
Weight of whole appliances re-used for original purpose B … … kg
Weight of components, sub-assemblies and consumables which are re-used for their original purpose or recycled C … … kg
Target level of WEEE re-use and recycling CA - B … … %
Weight of WEEE where energy is recovered in a power plant D … … kg
Target level of WEEE recovery D + CA - B … … %

Different rules apply under the WEEE Directive depending on whether the producer sells his products to private consumers (referred to as ‘private households' under the WEEE Directive) or to businesses (referred to as ‘users other than than private households' under the WEEE Directive. This section focuses on obligations on business-to-business (B2B) products. Financial obligations for B2C sales are outlined in Article 12 of the WEEE Directive whereas financial obligations for B2B sales are outlined in Article 13 of the WEEE Directive.

Article 13 of the WEEE Directive makes businesses that sell their products to other businesses (B2B) responsible for providing arrangements for financing the costs of WEEE collection and recycling, or agreeing appropriate contractual arrangements with customers stipulating other methods. In other words, B2B WEEE is left very open-ended in the WEEE Directive. Different rules apply to waste arising from equipment sold before August 2005, known as historic WEEE, and waste arising from products placed on the market after August 2005, known as new WEEE.

Paragraph 1 of Article 13 states that B2B producers are responsible for providing arrangements for financing the costs of collection and recycling of new WEEE arising from products placed on the market after August 2005. For historic WEEE being replaced by products fulfilling the same function, the responsibility for providing arrangements for financing of the costs of collection and recycling of the historic WEEE will fall upon the producer who sells the new product (regardless of who sold the historic WEEE product). However, Member States may as an alternative make the last user of the equipment (i.e. the business customer) partly or totally responsible for financing the WEEE collection and recycling costs.

Paragraph 1 finishes by stating that for other historic waste (i.e. where it is not being replaced by a new product); the last user is responsible for financing the WEEE collection and recycling costs. Some Member States (e.g. Germany, France, Belgium. Poland and the Netherlands) have chosen to make the last users responsible for all historic waste, regardless of whether they purchase replacement items.

Paragraph 2 of Article 13 allows B2B producers to agree contractual arrangements with business customers which stipulate other methods of financing the WEEE collection and recycling costs (for both historic WEEE and new WEEE). In some countries (e.g. Germany, France) the WEEE Regulations have gone beyond the WEEE Directive and allow B2B producers to pass all of the legal responsibility for producer obligation under the WEEE Directive to the customer through contractual arrangements. In this case the customer is required to arrange transport of the WEEE to an approved treatment facility, arrange for target levels of recycling and recovery to be met, and report the recycling data to the national WEEE agency. In other countries (e.g. UK, Netherlands) the WEEE Regulations have remained in line with the WEEE Directive and only allow the producer to agree alternative contractual arrangements to cover the financing of WEEE collection and recycling. For example, the WEEE guidance in The Netherlands states that "For business-to-business products, while producers must set up a collection and treatment system, such a system can be financed together with the discarder".

Article 13 does not place any restrictions on B2B producers in terms of showing the costs of collection and recycling as a visible fee to customers. Moreover, there are no restrictions on how much a B2B producer chooses to charge its customers for providing arrangements for collection and recycling (or how much cost it chooses to internalise).