About WEEE

What does WEEE mean?

Electrical and electronic waste, abbreviated WEEE, is discarded equipment previously powered either from the mains, or by battery or accumulators. The most common examples are: computers, refrigerators, washing machines and dishwashers, electric and microwave ovens, TVs, fixed and mobile phones, small appliances, consumer electronics.

WEEE contains reusable materials which, through correct handling and further processing, can be reintroduced into the production circuit, contributing to the creation of new resources in accordance with the circular economy principles. Some of these thrown away gears also contain pollutants, so the European and national legislation establishes strict separate collection obligations.

Both at an European and on a national level, the principle of extended producer responsibility applies for the management of WEE. Thus, producers are responsible for setting up, coordinating and financing WEEE collection and recycling, in compliance with environmental legislation, along with auxiliary measures to promote WEEE reduction and reuse.

The importance of recycling

Old or out-of-order equipment must be collected and recycled correctly, for the protection of the environment, to mitigate the risk posed to human health by their toxic potential, as well as for the protection of natural resources.

First, electrical or electronic equipment may contain dangerous substances, both for the environment and our health, such as heavy metals, substances that depreciate the ozone layer, or persistent organic pollutants. Among the most common of these are the following:

Chlorofluorocarbons (freon), which contributes to both the degradation of the stratospheric ozone layer and global warming. The global warming potential of a freon molecule is 2400 times higher than that of a CO2 molecule, the standard measurement unit.
Brominated flame retardants, which are found in both electronic boards and plastic cases. They do not degrade in the environment and prolonged exposure to these substances can lead to memory disorders, as well as disorders in the normal functioning of the thyroid gland and hormonal system.
Capacitors with PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), used in older devices, manufactured until 1987. They are part of the category of persistent organic pollutants, that decompose very slowly and bioaccumulate at the end of the food chain. PCBs are toxic to aquatic organisms, even lethal in high doses and may damage the immune and reproductive systems of various wild mammals. The effects of human exposure to PCBs lead to dysfunction of the liver, immune system, genital tract, digestive tract, thyroid gland, bone marrow and gastric mucosa.
PVC-based materials, a plastic material with chlorine content whose improper processing or disposal (by combustion) causes emissions of dioxins and furans in the environment, persistent organic pollutants with negative effects such as: cancer, hormonal disorders, damage on the immune system, diabetes, learning difficulties, lung and skin disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, hematological disorders, nervous system disorders and others.
Mercury, used especially in straight fluorescent lamps and energy saving light bulbs. This is a heavy metal that bioaccumulates at the end of the food chain and especially affects the nervous system and kidneys.
In addition, recycling contributes to the protection of natural resources by reintegrating the by-products thus obtained back into the production circuit. They replace raw materials that otherwise would have been acquired by exploiting natural resources.