The definition of hazardous waste is a complex one, but for the benefit of anyone who is unsure what is covered within the framework of The Waste Electronic & Electric Equipment legislation (WEEE), it is basically anything which is electrically operated either by battery, mains, AC or DC current. Consider your workplace and look around in the offices, warehouse, garage, loading bay and reception areas; mobile phones, computers, printers, laptops and other hand held devices as well as those pieces of equipment which may be in the workplace as well as the home are all classed as hazardous waste.
Washing machines, tumble driers, cookers and microwaves are all classed as hazardous waste for the benefit of WEEE, and by way of disposal are required to be disposed of through a licensed operative and/or recycling plant. This is due to many of the components either being made from or has elements of their manufacture which include but are not limited to mercury, lead, cadmium, bromine and arsenic as a few examples. In the minute quantities and in normal day to day operation they are not harmful, providing the equipment is used as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
The problems arise when these pieces of equipment are disposed of and where in the past they would have been placed in landfill sites; the subsequent leaching of these heavy metals and toxic substances into the groundwater tables eventually find their way back into the food chain which has humans at the top.
In many places in the world (China and India in particular) there are locations where contamination of the water table and the surrounding local environment is so bad that birth defects, cancer and other illnesses known to be connected to heavy metal and toxic poisoning are way above the normally expected levels.
Our lives today are ruled by electronic equipment, so much so that evidence points to exponential increase in potentially toxic devices increasing year on year for at least the foreseeable future. Make sure your hazardous waste policy is up to date and that any provisions you make are with a registered and licenced hazardous waste disposal operative or recycling organisation.