There is only one way to say this…ignorance definitely isn’t bliss nor is it an acceptable excuse for non-compliance when disposing of hazardous waste materials. If your business uses electronic and electrical equipment, the buck stops with you. It is your responsibility to familiarise yourself with the rules and regulations pertaining to the safe disposal of commercial waste (including WEEE). The regulations are outlined in the Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations 2013 and in 2019 were updated and expanded to include additional electronic categories.
Each year the UK generates around 2 tonnes of WEEE waste (commercial and residential) and the majority of WEEE waste includes some sort of battery. Therefore, adherence to the regulations is essential to reduce the amount of waste in landfills and to increase the volume of waste that is recovered and recycled. The onus is clearly on the business owner to fulfil their responsibilities. In other words, your company has a duty of care to store, handle and dispose of the waste correctly, both on site and when handling to regulated waste management operative (carrier).
Now it gets a bit more complicated … if your electric and electronic equipment was manufactured and bought before the 13 August 2005 this is classified as ‘historic WEEE’. If you are replacing equipment, the supplier of the replacement items must take your WEEE waste if you request it (managing in the waste handling and transport).
However, if you are not replacing and just clearing out the old items, it is your responsibility to organise the disposal of hazardous waste appropriately. For example, G&S Clearance operating in the Brighton and Hove area is a fully licensed waste management service and registered waste carrier with experience of removing and disposing of WEEE waste via the correct channels. Once your WEEE waste have been removed, the ‘carrier’ will issue a waste transfer receipt which must be retained as proof that you have followed the legal disposal procedure.
Equipment purchased after 13th August 2005 is referred to as non-historic WEEE waste which is indicated on each item by a symbol of a wheely bin with a line through it. This means that the company producing the electronic or electric equipment is responsible for all aspects including the cost and management of the safe disposal and recycling of the equipment, unless another course of action is agreed by both parties.
Batteries are used in everyday life, powering a wide range of equipment, ranging from general household items to electronic equipment. They are classified as hazardous waste as they contain dangerous components, such as mercury, lead and chemicals. Therefore, they need to be legally and responsibly treated, recycled and elements recovered followed by safe disposal, to prevent them ending up in a landfill.
Lithium batteries, used in all sorts of equipment need to be disposed of extra carefully. Rather than throwing the batteries in a landfill, where elements such as nickel, mercury, lead, copper and manganese can cause a fire hazard and leak into the environment, instead they can be treated, recovered and recycled.
As an individual, you can easily dispose of mobile phone and laptop batteries in bins provided in shops selling these products and larger supermarkets. However, as a business, these batteries are classed as commercial waste and must be disposed of accordingly. Whenever possible, you should dispose of this type of equipment without removing the battery along with the rest of your WEEE recycling. If the battery from a laptop is removed, it must be stored in a battery bin and collected by a licensed waste clearance service, such as G&S Clearance. The carrier will transport the equipment to an approved authorized treatment facility where the different elements will be stripped, recycled and then disposed of via the correct channels.
Lithium-ion phosphate rechargeable batteries are the latest version of Lithium-Ion battery technology and they are used to power all types of equipment from electric vehicles to off-grid energy storage. It is crucial to dispose of these batteries correctly in order to reduce the amount of rubbish going into landfills and also to avoid chemicals polluting the air, soil and water. Like all batteries, Lithium batteries are a potential fire hazard, particularly if the battery is damaged, leaking and short-circuited.
LiFePO4 batteries are being adopted in place of tradition fossil fuels in order to be kinder to the environment, so it is crucial that they are disposed of correctly for economic and environmental reasons.
To dispose of LiFePO4 batteries that have reached the end of their life, you should call a registered carrier to transport and dispose of them at an approved authorised plant where the batteries will first be discharged, dismantled, separated and recycled. Following this correct process allows valuable materials to be reclaimed and reused, which also reduces the cost of producing new batteries.
It should be enough of an incentive to know that you are helping to save the global environment and preserve resources. There is also another good reason to follow the regulations, as failure to comply with your duty of care is a criminal offence, which can result in prosecution.