U.K. hazardous waste revision angers WEEE processors

U.K. hazardous waste revision angers WEEE processors

By Bobby Elliott, E-Scrap News

In a significant revision to hazardous waste guidelines in the U.K., the Environment Agency (EA) will now classify small mixed waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) as both hazardous and non-hazardous waste.

Previously, small mixed WEEE had been uniformly classified as non-hazardous waste, allowing processors to handle the waste without separating it first. Recent concerns surrounding hazardous properties found in some WEEE products, however, led the agency to revise its interpretation and ask processors to sort and ship the waste accordingly.

The distinction, which appeared in the agency's updated Hazardous Waste classification document, has left some industry members up in arms. Leaders of U.K. e-scrap companies hoped that any changes to the WEEE system would ease costs and reduce red tape, but under the new classification, processors would be required to sort hazardous waste from non-hazardous in all small mixed WEEE streams.

That's a prospect Wastecare's Peter Hunt says will cause businesses undue harm. "The new guidance flies in the face of the government's Red Tape Challenge," Hunt told letsrecycle.com. "It does nothing but increase bureaucracy and complicates a system, which had to this point been working perfectly well."

Claire Snow, director of Industry Council for Electronic Equipment Recycling, told the U.K.-based Materials Recycling World that the EA is discussing how to ease costs associated with the change, adding, "They don't want to put on extra burdens that are disproportionate to the risk."

The update comes as the government is preparing to release changes to the WEEE system aimed at easing and streamlining the recycling process. WEEE collection totals dropped during the first quarter of 2013, a trend that inspired some to call for significant changes to the system if the country is to meet its recycling goals.

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