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Waste Electricals: Retailer Responsibilities

Retailers and distributors who sell or produce electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) must provide a way for customers to dispose of it when it becomes waste (e.g. through the DTS).

This guide explains when you must offer a free collection service for used electricals (WEEE) and how UK waste collection and producer compliance schemes work.

Retailers and Wholesalers Responsibilities

There are several ways of providing customers with ways to get rid of old household electricals after selling them a newer version.

As a retailer or distributor, you must also meet your responsibilities for the collection of portable batteries (e.g. through the battery take back scheme).

UK waste electrical and electronic equipment regulations apply no matter how the products are sold (e.g. direct or by mail order).

As a result, if you are selling any electrical or electronic devices in the United Kingdom, you will need to (either):

  • Provide your customers with a free, in store, take back waste service.
  • Set up an alternative retail WEEE service, such as the Designated Collection Facility (DCF).

But, any retailers and wholesalers who do not operate their own take back service for waste electricals will need to join the Distributor Takeback Scheme (DTS).

Note: Failing to comply with UK WEEE regulations can result in a prosecution and an unlimited fine (see below).

Telling Customers about Your Takeback Service

Besides offering customers a way to dispose of their old household EEE, you must also tell them which service you provide.

So, using written information, retailers and distributors must inform customers which particular service they offer (including collect on delivery), as well as:

  • How customers can reuse and recycle their household electrical and electronic equipment.
  • Reasons why separating EEE waste from other useless items at the end of their working life is an important part of waste management processes.
  • Why we should recycle electrical and electronic equipment and how not doing so has a damaging effect on the environment.
  • What the crossed-out wheelie bin symbol means on a product (e.g. do not dispose of these products as unsorted municipal waste: take them for recycling).
Rules for Online Retailers

As an online retailer, you will need to publish the required customer information on your website. DTS members get digital templates and record keeping details from the scheme.

Note: The OPSS produces free templates for distributors who are running their own take-back scheme under the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) regulations.

Selling through Retail Shops

If you sell electrical goods through a small shop or a large store you can provide the required information by:

  • Displaying posters in relevant areas that explain which service you provide.
  • Including information leaflets along with the electrical items that you are selling.

Note: Additional producer responsibilities apply for wholesalers who put EEE on the UK market. In this case, you would need to follow rules on EEE that you sell as well as any EEE that becomes waste (WEEE).

Taking Back EEE Waste in Stores

When retailers and distributors take back used electrical goods from customers, they must allow them to return the same type as the item that they bought.

Electrical waste responsibilities for retailers and wholesalers in United Kingdom.This take back rule for stores applies no matter whether:

  • It relates to a different brand.
  • The purchase was made in-store, by mail order, or online.

Also, you would need to take back used items that have the same function. Thus, you must allow customers to return:

  • An old kettle if they buy a new one.
  • A video player if they buy a DVD player.

As a retailer, when you take back waste in store, you must:

  • Allow customers a minimum of twenty eight (28) days to bring back any waste items.
  • Allow customers to return all types of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) that you sell. Some retailers also choose to extend their service to cover other kinds of electrical and electronic waste (WEEE).
  • Not charge for the in-store service. Nonetheless, you can charge a fee to cover your transport costs (e.g. if collecting goods from the homes of customers).

WEEE and Small Electronic Equipment

Certain electronic items qualify as ‘very small WEEE’. They are waste electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) measuring less than twenty five (25) centimetres on the longest side.

So, does your store need to take back all items that classify as ‘very small WEEE’? Yes, if the store area for EEE sales is greater than four hundred (400) square metres (including aisle, display, and shelf space).

Furthermore, your store must provide this service for free and to everyone. In fact, it does not matter whether a customer actually bought any goods from your shop.

Note: An exemption to this rule applies if an assessment shows you already have an effective system in place or you joined the Distributor Takeback Scheme (DTS).

Waste Exemption NWFD 4

Having a Non Waste Framework Directive (NWFD) exemption means there is no need for registration (e.g. shops providing containers for customers to deposit waste batteries, pharmacies storing out of date medicines).

The exemption allows you to store waste ‘temporarily’ at a collection point. You can then recover – or dispose of – the waste elsewhere at a later date.

Note: The Environment Agency produces further guidance about waste exemptions to store waste ‘temporarily’ before disposing it safely.

Setting Up a Designated Collection Facility

You can set up an alternative take back service yourself (e.g. a designated collection facility) so your customers can return different types of electrical and electronic waste.

The DCF must follow WEEE regulations, local planning requirements, and any other relevant waste management legislation in the United Kingdom.

Note: You can view a list of local authority designated collection facilities, with names of producer compliance schemes, on the GOV.UK website.

Disposal of Collected Waste

There are several ways to dispose of the waste that you collected. You can either use a producer compliance scheme (PCS) or transport the waste yourself.

Using Producer Compliance Schemes

Producer compliance schemes will either arrange for the recycling of WEEE or prepare it for re-use at one of the Approved Authorised Treatment Facilities.

In some cases, they will charge a fee for the collection and transportation of the waste to the collection point at the AATF or PCS.

Transporting WEEE Yourself

The rules on managing waste allow you to transport it to an AATF or PCS collection point. But, you would need to register as a waste carrier beforehand and then follow the rules on transporting hazardous waste.

Important: The Environment Agency has a public register of producer compliance schemes (PCS) and approved authorised treatment facilities (AATF).

Keeping Records of WEEE

Even though you need to keep records of all electrical and electronic waste you collect and dispose of, there is a template to simplify the process (see above).

WEEE records should show the number of units received through take back and state how many were returned to a PCS.

You must keep the documentation for at least four (4) years, including any documents you receive from a PCS or AATF, and records showing how you notify customers about your take back scheme.

Joining the UK Distributor Take-Back Scheme

If you join the Distributor Takeback Scheme you will not need to provide your own take back service. But, the UK DTS charges a fee to cover waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) obligations.

As a rule, the amount you pay per year will depend on the size of the business, and:

  • How much EEE you sell.
  • Whether you only sell electrical goods online.

You would still need to keep accurate records of the information you give to customers (e.g. where they should return their electrical and electronic waste).

Important: New Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations apply to photovoltaic (PV) panel waste for distributors who sell PV panels for private households.

Penalties for Non Compliance

Failing to comply with the regulations for waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) can result in a fine up to £5,000, or an unlimited fine from a Crown Court for the worst offenders.

A primary role of the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) is enforcing waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) regulations.

Office for Product Safety and Standards
Telephone: 0121 345 1218
PO Box 17200
B2 2YT
Call rates for UK numbers

They also enforce regulations for the:

As such, they have the power to visit business premises at any time and check how the company handles waste and used batteries.

Waste Electrical Rules for Retailers in United Kingdom