Incorrect disposal of hazardous waste could land contractors – and their customers – with prosecution, legal costs, reputational damage – and a fine.
Waste fluorescent tubes are regarded as hazardous, and it is illegal for a business to send hazardous waste to landfill. Electrical contractors and their customers have a duty of care to make sure their waste is disposed of correctly. This applies to all who:
- Produce or store waste.
- Collect and transport waste.
- Receive waste for recycling or disposal.
In the UK there is an increased awareness of the need to protect our environment. Business customers are increasingly adopting corporate social responsibility and environmental policies.
That frequently means they will want to be confident that their waste is being disposed of correctly. Contractors who can demonstrate that electrical and hazardous waste is being recycled can use this to their advantage to win new business.
But there is also a downside to not doing the right thing. There is a duty of care for all businesses to ensure that their waste is handed on to an organisation that is authorised to receive that waste. If a contractor disposes of that waste in an illegal fashion, both they, and their customer could be subject to enforcement action by the Environment Agency.
The WEEE Regulations and how they affect you
WEEE is Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. The WEEE Regulations were introduced back in 2007 to make sure that WEEE is treated properly and not sent to landfill. All fluorescent lighting, LEDs and light fittings are classed as WEEE.
The UK’s four Environment Agencies, one for each UK nation, have reporting procedures in place for tracking, storing and moving WEEE.
The environment agencies require businesses to prepare consignment notes or waste transfer notes to track the movement of WEEE. These help make sure that the waste can be tracked responsibly from where it is produced through to its final destination. Copies of such notes must be kept for three years.
Storage exemptions enable low risk waste operations to be undertaken without complex permit controls. These are generally limited to small quantities of waste for use, or storage. Electrical contractors and wholesalers are typical of the type of companies that can benefit from storage exemptions.
All exemptions require you to store waste in secure containers with weatherproof covering.
To move waste electricals, contractors need to register as a Waste Carrier with the agency in the county of their principal business. A tiered system for registrations as a waste carrier came into force in January 2014.
The high profile that waste and recycling now has in the UK, means that the environment agencies have dramatically increased their monitoring of waste carriers. Spot checks on white vans are now a regular part of their routine and can result in cautions or prosecutions for companies that are not compliant.
Illegal WEEE export in the news
Recent press articles about the illegal export of electrical waste reinforce the importance of correctly managing WEEE. As a WEEE producer compliance scheme, Recolight ensures that the waste we manage is collected and treated responsibly within the UK, using authorised treatment plants.
Recolight also organise regular, comprehensive audits of our contracted operators to verify compliance with the relevant UK Regulations and Recolight’s own criteria.