Since 2007 the onus has been placed on business owners and other stakeholders within a business to dispose of electrical and electronic equipment by way of a duly licenced operator, pursuant to the instructions and responsibilities laid down in the Waste Electronic & Electric Equipment legislation (WEEE). Any waste which falls into these categories are classed as hazardous waste, and the reason for this is that many of the components are made from or include elements of mercury, cadmium, bromine, lead arsenic and other nasties, all of which leach into the ground if equipment is placed in ordinary landfill.
Over the past century it is not known how many millions of tonnes of waste electrical equipment has ended up buried in landfill; however, given the exponential proliferation of electronic, electrical and mechanical equipment over the past seventy years or so, the tonnage looks likely to increase exponentially for many years into the future. Examples of equipment which falls into the category of hazardous waste and requires licenced disposal include but are not limited to:
- Televisions, digital TV decoders, video and DVD players
- Cookers, fridges, washing machines and tumble dryers
- Hair straighteners, curling tongs and hair dryers
- Computers, laptops, printers, mobile phones and other hand held devices
- Batteries (vehicle and hand held device)
- Food mixing equipment
The aforementioned list is by no means exhaustive but offers a taste of the many items which now have to be disposed of through a licenced operator and/or recycling company; indeed, failure on the part of a business to comply with the legislation can (and frequently does) end up in prosecutions, resulting in fines and costs levied as well as potential prison sentences for business owners and/or those responsible.
The responsibility is firmly placed upon the owner and/or operator of any business and/or commercial, public or charitable organisation to dispose of their waste responsibly and to ensure the individual, company and/or organisation tasked with said disposal has all the relevant licences required to effect safe and environmentally responsible disposal.