The priority objective of the WEEE Directive (or Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) is the prevention of the generation of this kind of waste, as well as its environmentally-friendly reuse, recycling and other forms of recovery of such waste in order to reduce its elimination.
Furthermore, it aims to improve the environmental behaviour of all those agents that intervene in the life cycle of electrical and electronic equipment, including producers, distributors, and consumers.
In order to achieve these objectives, the WEEE Directive applies the concept of Producer Responsibility, through which the producer must respond for its products when these reach the end of their useful life, in other words, when they become waste. In practice, this means that producers must finance the costs of the collection and processing of electrical and electronic equipment once it reaches the end of its useful life. Producers must also take responsibility for providing adequate information (including the obligation of marking the equipment with symbols) to their interested parties, in other words, consumers, governments, partners in recycling work, etc.
Distributors are also given a prominent role in the organisation of the withdrawal of products no longer in use. When supplying a new article, distributors must ensure that the electrical or electronic equipment can be returned to them in a free-of-charge and individualised way, providing that the equipment is similar and has been used for the same functions as the new equipment.
The scope of application of the WEEE Directive is limited to waste originating from electrical and electronic waste. Electrical and electronic equipment is defined as: “All equipment that needs electric current or electromagnetic fields to function and the apparatus necessary to generate, transmit, and measure such currents and fields (...) and that are designed to be used with a nominal tension no greater than 1,000 V in alternating current and 1,500 V in direct current”.
Annex 1 of the WEEE Directive includes a summary of these products and contemplates the following categories:
- Large household appliances.
- Small household appliances.
- IT and telecommunications equipment..
- Consumer equipment.
- Lighting equipment, including gas-discharge lamps and luminaires (for non-domestic use).
- Electrical and electronic tools (except large-scale fixed industrial tools).
- Toys, leisure and sports equipment.
- Medical devices (except all implanted and infected products).
- Monitoring and control instruments.
- Automatic dispensing machines.
Excluded from the scope of the WEEE Directive are other types of equipment contemplated by other laws relating to waste collection (in other words, lamps installed in vehicles, which are subject to specific removal obligations), as well as equipment designed for military purposes. For all other cases, we consider that the lamps enter within the scope of the aforementioned Directive.