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After ongoing reviews, the Environment Agency has recently updated guidance on the disposal of WEEE waste (Waste and Electrical and Electronic Equipment), which contain POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants). The new guidance now imposes that all electrical items containing above a certain threshold of POPs must be disposed through High Temperature Incineration, rather than recycling, it also prohibits the reuse of materials abroad and items will have to meet new regulations in order to be reused in the UK.

What are POPs?

POPs are a group of toxic chemicals that don’t break down easily in the environment. Historically they were used in a number of industrial processes including being used as a plastic additive to slow down degradation or to make items fire retardant; so they could be in the casing, printed circuit board or cable cover or virtually any electrical item. They have been classified as hazardous due to the environmental damage POPs can cause when not treated properly. The new legislation prohibits recycling of items if they go above a certain threshold of POPs contents, however with limited ability to test the items, or detailed information from manufactures, it would be difficult to determine whether your items will meet the threshold, and as such, many goods will be reclassified as hazardous waste to ensure strict compliance.

How do I know if my equipment contains POPs?

Whilst there is no straight-forward way to test for POPs in WEEE items, the EA has provided some guidance on how to classify electrical waste with the changes in guidance here: Classify different types of electrical and electronic waste , As POPs have been used as an integral item to the preservation of goods, they can be found in almost any electrical equipment,

Currently, redundant electrical waste items such as computer monitors are stripped and recycled; however with new incoming legislation this process will prove even more difficult, with tougher checks in place to ensure these materials are responsibly handled. The lower threshold of acceptable POPs means that plastics which may have been recycled in the past will be subject to Energy from Waste disposal – possibly impacting the disposal costs for these materials.

Can I still reuse electrical goods ?

Reusing WEEE items has also become more difficult, with government guidelines imposing a no reuse rule on any item which contains POPs. The exception being items which have been manufactured after January 2009:

“You must only reuse WEEE as EEE within the UK if you can demonstrate both of the following, you have:

It will therefore not be possible to send electrical goods abroad, or reuse items which have been manufactured before January 2009. If you are in doubt, it is best to err on the side of caution and dispose of such items using the new guidelines.

How Bywaters can help

Bywaters are able to advise customers on the changes in disposal requirements for existing WEEE waste to ensure compliant disposal. If you are an existing, or new customer requiring disposal of electrical waste, but are unsure of how to facilitate this, please contact your Account Manager or our Customer Services team, who will be happy to assist you.


Further useful links on the new changes to POPs disposal can be found below:

Classify different types of electrical and electronic waste

Classify different types of WEEE

Identify and dispose of waste containing persistent organic pollutants (updated June 2020)

Classify some waste electrical devices, components, and wastes from their treatment (updated June 2020)

If you have any questions with regards to the contents of this article, or would like some assistance on the disposal of your electrical goods, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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