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Collecting, transporting and storing WEEE

This guidance should be used by any organisation that sets up and/or manages the collection, transportation and storage of any type of WEEE. This includes collecting and transporting WEEE from:

  • public collection events such as one-day events and temporary collection sites at schools or stadiums
  • permanent collection points at business sites such as retail premises
  • permanent collection points at publicly accessible sites such as resource recovery parks or transfer stations
  • postal collection services
  • inorganic collections run by local authorities or others.
  • A checklist on collection, transporting and storing waste electrical and electronic equipment is available for you to print and use.

WEEE collection points and methods

Collecting WEEE is a vital stage in the recovery and recycling chain. How WEEE is collected and segregated has a major impact on its final destination as waste, recycled materials, or as a refurbished item.

Figure 3 shows the different collection routes for household and business WEEE and the issues that affect whether WEEE will be reused or recycled. All collection and storage methods should be designed with the end purpose in mind.

Figure 3: Main collection methods for WEEE and factors affecting its final destination

Guidelines and recommendations for collecting, transporting and storing WEEE

All companies operating collection facilities for WEEE should be committed to:

  • minimising the health and safety risks associated with WEEE collections
  • ensuring WEEE is collected in a way that enables it to be reused or recycled
  • recording data so WEEE can be monitored through the disposal chain
  • only working with competent companies at the next stage of the disposal chain.

Designing collections to aid reuse and/or recycling

How WEEE is collected has a huge impact on what can happen to it later. For example, a kerb-side collection of WEEE is not appropriate for reuse because valuable parts of the equipment may be damaged by bad weather.

When designing collection systems, the need to prioritise reuse and/or recycling should be considered. The system should allow for a high quality of recovered materials.

Reuse is assisted by:

  • segregating materials by product type
  • clear labelling for those depositing equipment, to identify if the collection is for reuse, recycling or both
  • storing without damaging the equipment and protecting from deterioration, vandalism and theft/pilfering
  • sending WEEE to a company that primarily sorts for reuse.

Minimising the release of hazardous substances into the environment

If WEEE is damaged while it is being collected, transported or stored there is a risk that hazardous substances will be released into the environment. A risk assessment should be undertaken to look at the types of products being collected and their containers, and the risks of release due to damage.

Key things to consider are:

  • cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors – any damage to the glass should be avoided
  • fluorescent lamps and any other devices that contain mercury or PCBs – appropriately designed containers should be used to store the lighting safely
  • broken or processed CRT glass and other leaded glass or broken fluorescent lamps – should be segregated from other WEEE, clearly labelled and placed in closed, secure containers
  • cooling and freezing appliances that may contain ozone depleting and other gases and oil – damage to the appliances should be avoided to reduce leakage of hazardous substances
  • batteries – batteries should be correctly packaged.

To minimise risk, the site should:

Protecting the health and safety of operators and visitors

It is important that the health and safety risks to staff and visitors of collecting, transporting and storing WEEE are identified and minimised. A full risk assessment should be completed to identify and mitigate the risks. There should be a management plan in place to ensure health and safety and environmental good practices are adopted.

Potential hazards include the manual handling of WEEE and vehicle and people movements. These hazards may result in:

  • ingestion of hazardous substances
  • slips, trips and falls
  • cuts and abrasions.

If WEEE is mixed with other hazardous waste there are greater hazards.

Staff training and the use of appropriate equipment and protective clothing should be instigated, where appropriate.

Organisations collecting, transporting or storing WEEE should use material safety data sheets for hazardous substances which provide detail on health and safety for handling, storing and transporting hazardous substances. The Department of Labour has published the Code of Practice for the Preparation of Safety Data Sheets (SDS), (formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheets or MSDS).

A useful resource on health and safety and environmental procedures for WEEE is available on the WRAP website (www.wrap.org.uk, PDF, 1.20 MB]. It provides guidance on setting up systems and procedures to identify risks and advises on staff responsibilities and training.

More information is included in the Specific health and safety considerations when reusing or recycling WEEE section.

Minimising contamination with other wastes

WEEE should be collected in a way that minimises contamination with other waste to ensure a high quality of materials. In particular, avoid contamination with food waste, hazardous waste of a type other than that for which the container is designated, or liquid waste.

Wherever practicable, WEEE should be collected separately to other wastes and should be clearly labelled. This is important because it:

  • prevents WEEE from being sent to inappropriate disposal paths such as landfill
  • prevents WEEE from inadvertently being processed in shredders that are not designed to take the equipment causing contamination to other material streams
  • maximises the opportunities for WEEE to be reused.

Different types of WEEE must be able to be separated into categories for downstream reuse and recycling. (Note: this may not be possible for small transfer sites.)

WEEE should be collected in containers that:

  • are fit for purpose
  • easy to access
  • prevent damage to the equipment
  • prevent deterioration, vandalisms and theft/pilfering
  • reduce manual handling of the equipment
  • maximise the value of the equipment as either reusable products or recyclable material
  • reduce the risk of damage to items of WEEE which could release hazards into the environment or cause exposure to staff and visitors.

A UK assessment of the capacity of civic amenity sites to collect WEEE [PDF, 56 KB] lists the following as suitable containers for WEEE collection:

  • 1100 litre Eurobins
  • cages
  • shipping containers
  • separate cages
  • dedicated WEEE collection sheds.

The Department of Trade and Industry in the UK has published a Code of Practice for Collection of WEEE from Designated Collection Facilities [PDF, 108 KB] . It suggests that it is unacceptable for more than 15 per cent of the WEEE collected to be contaminated by other waste.

It suggests that high levels of contamination can be improved by:

  • improving signage
  • improving supervision
  • changing the layout of the facility
  • changing the types of containers
  • training or incentivising staff
  • public education and awareness. 

Good practice collection and treatment guidelines for electrical and electronic products produced by WRAP in the UK provides advice on containers, signage, handling and storage, staff training and contractual arrangements.

Batteries

Rechargeable batteries always retain some residual charge when they are discarded. These batteries could short circuit and discharge, resulting in combustion or explosion. Lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries (those commonly used to power laptop computers and mobile phones) are particularly susceptible to this and should be handled with special care.

The risk of short circuiting is particularly high during the process of transportation, storage and mechanical dismantling of batteries for recycling (Xia et al, 2005).

Used batteries destined for transportation should be packaged in a container that is closed, structurally sound, compatible with the contents of the battery, and lacks evidence of leakage, spillage, or damage that could cause leakage. Batteries should be packaged securely to prevent movement (Department of Sustainable Development Environmental Protection Service, Government of the Nunavut, 2002). Leaking and non-leaking batteries must be segregated and transported in separate, clearly labelled containers (AERC, 2003).

Avoiding stockpiling of WEEE

WEEE can be stored and accumulated to allow for cost-effective recovery, treatment or disposal, but it is important to be able to demonstrate that there is a legitimate market for the waste. If there is not a legitimate market, WEEE should not be stockpiled. Stockpiling of waste is restricted under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 section 26 (3).

Records should be kept to prove that the waste is not being ‘speculatively accumulated’ – that is, stockpiled for potential future use.

Stockpiling of WEEE is not good practice because it:

  • increases the environmental and human health risk from the concentration of potentially hazardous material
  • decreases the reuse value as equipment ages and is exposed for longer to the weather
  • is a potential fire hazard, especially for stockpiles of batteries.

Rare exceptions do exist, such as uncontaminated glass that is not hazardous which is stockpiled whilst looking for alternative uses.

If waste is being stored for long periods before it is collected the facilities should have, depending on the type of WEEE:

  • impermeable surfaces, appropriate spillage collection facilities, decanters and degreasers
  • weatherproof covering to:
    • minimise the contamination of clean surface and rain waters
    • aid the reuse of whole appliances
  • the ability to contain any hazardous materials and fluids
  • security to prevent vandalism and theft/pilfering.

Weatherproofing requirements depend on the waste type. It may be a lidded wheelie bin or a dedicated storage area. For example, batteries, mercury lamps, printed circuit boards, and monitors should be protected from the weather.

Resource management consents may restrict the storage of wastes on site.

Safely transporting WEEE

Those transporting WEEE should aim to:

  • minimise health and safety risks
  • have efficient collections - collections should be arranged to minimise the number of vehicle movements (that is, provide a ‘milk round’ collection so the vehicle is being used to its maximum). If collecting for recycling only, the aim is to decrease the kilometres driven for each unit recovered. However, the collector should avoid the unnecessary stockpiling of wastes.

Transporting WEEE overseas must meet Basel Convention best practice and requirements such as serialised and sealed containers with a validation of shipping papers inventory. See the Exporting hazardous WEEE section for more information.

‘Fit for Reuse: A Guide to the Repair, Refurbishment and Reuse of Domestic Electrical Appliances’ [PDF, 835 KB] [Furniture Re-use Network wesbite] provides good advice to refurbishment operations on the types of issues to consider when transporting WEEE. In summary:

  • the correct equipment must be used
  • assess the load requirement of the vehicle (weight, height, space for desired amount of items)
  • tail lifts are required for loading and unloading items from vehicles
  • items should be protected by a reusable wrapping, and doors (for whiteware) must be taped up
  • items should be secured in the vehicle and in the correct position for transportation
  • assess whether the vehicle requires specific storage areas and bins for items such as scrap and spares
  • box small items. For example, microwaves need to be handled with care because the doors and seals are vulnerable. They need to be protected or they may subsequently leak radiation. Glass turntables should be wrapped and doors should be secured with tape
  • for batteries, the Defra advisory note on the storage and transport of waste portable batteries [Defra website] provides detailed advice on the safe transport of batteries.

Keeping records on WEEE

The collection of WEEE is the first stage of the chain for the reuse and recycling of equipment. It is therefore vital that data is collected at this stage so WEEE can be tracked further down the disposal chain.

At the point of collection, the following information should be recorded:

  • total weight of WEEE collected at each collection area
  • the audit trail through to first reuse or final recycling process (a list of all facilities and transactions used for the reuse and recycling of WEEE)
  • percentage recycled and reused, by weight or unit and WEEE stream
  • types of items and proportion of total handled, by weight, for processing or per unit for reuse (composition data).

All WEEE collected should be given a unique identification code, either for individual items (when the items are destined for reuse) or for batches of WEEE (where the items are destined for recycling). This will enable the WEEE to be tracked throughout the process.

Records need to be kept for a minimum of four years.

Good practice collection and treatment guidelines for electrical and electronic products, produced by WRAP in the UK, include sections on traceability and management systems [PDF, 1.17 MB] [Wrap UK website] and data management and reporting [PDF, 1.38 MB] [Wrap UK wbsite].

Good practice tips for businesses disposing of unwanted electronics

Commercial unwanted electronics may be collected directly from businesses. It is more likely that commercial unwanted electronics can be reused.

Your first priority should be to assess whether your equipment can be refurbished. If it can, you should:

  • store it in a way that allows it to be reused
  • make sure all fixtures and fittings are kept
  • store it intact in containers that reduce the risk of damage
  • store it undercover to reduce the risk of rain or other weather damage
  • keep a log of the equipment you are disposing of, the name and details of the collector, and where it goes within the disposal chain.

If there are no refurbishment businesses in your area, you will need to store your equipment safely until it is collected. You should make sure:

  • PCs and monitors are not stacked too high (due to the risk of falling)
  • monitor screens are not damaged
  • lighting equipment is stored safely to reduce the risk of damage.

Further information sources on collecting, transporting and storing WEEE

This page provides additional sources of information on the efficient collection, transportation and storage of WEEE.

Table 2: Further information sources on collecting, transporting and storing WEEE
Source Comments
Good practice collection and treatment guidelines for electrical and electronic products. (WRAP – Waste and Resource Action Programme, July 2010)

These guidelines for electronic and electrical products provide good practice guidance for all stages of the recycling chain, from point of disposal through to the production of resultant material streams. Chapters include:

  • health and safety and environmental procedure
  • treatment for reuse
  • treatment of WEEE
  • raising public awareness of recycling and reuse
  • data management and reporting
  • retailer take-back.
National Assessment of Civic Amenity Sites: Maximising Recycling Rates at Civic Amenity Sites (Beaumont et al, 2004) This report covers civic amenity sites in the UK, and is useful when looking at the expansion and design of new collection facilities. It includes a section on collecting unwanted electronics from civil amenity sites, including good practice from the UK and overseas (including the Christchurch Supershed).
Guidance on Best Available Treatment Recovery and Recycling Techniques (BATRRT) and Treatment of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) [PDF, 123 KB] (Defra, 2006) Provides guidance on health and safety and storage requirements for storing WEEE.
British Standard Occupational Health and Safety Standard (OHSAS) 18001:2007

Many organisations are implementing an occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS) as part of their risk management strategy.

An OHSMS provides a way to consistently identify and control an organisation’s health and safety risks, reduce the potential for accidents, aid legislative compliance, and improve overall performance.

OHSAS 18001 is the internationally recognised assessment specification for occupational health and safety management systems. It was developed by leading trade, international standards and certification bodies to address a gap where no third-party certifiable international standard exists.

OHSAS 18001 has been designed to be compatible with ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.
Code of Practice for Collection of WEEE from Designated Collection Facilities [PDF, 107 KB] (DTI, 2007a) This code of practice for collecting WEEE from designated collection facilities looks at the responsibilities, storage requirements, acceptable contamination levels, and the capacity of collection facilities to receive WEEE.
Guidance Principles: Best Practice for Recycling and Waste Management Contracts (Ministry for the Environment, 2007) This guide provides practical advice and tools to help local government when contracting waste management and recycling services.
The New Zealand Resource Recovery Park Design Guide [PDF, 3.47 MB] (WasteMINZ, June 2008) This guide provides comprehensive guidelines for the design, consenting and operation of resource recovery parks, to promote a consistent approach. The guide focuses on resource recovery activities rather than on the residual waste transfer or subsequent processing of recovered materials.

Technical Guidelines for the Environmentally Sound Management of Waste Lead-acid Batteries [PDF, 2.31 MB]. Series/SBC No. 2003/9. United Nations Environment Programme. (Basel Convention. 2003)

This manual provides practical advice and guidance specific to used lead-acid batteries.

Mobile Phone Partnership Initiative Project 2.2: Guideline of the Collection of Used Mobile Phones [PDF, 775 KB] (UNEP, March 2009)

This guideline provides advice and guidance about collecting used mobile phones. It reviews collection systems and identifies best practices, possible funding options and logistics for setting up national/regional/international collection systems for used mobile phones.

The Entrepreneur's Guide to Computer Recycling (UNESCO, 2008).

This guide will help anyone wanting to begin a business to collect used PCs and related equipment. It provides guidance on managing this equipment in a profitable and environmentally sound way, while ensuring the health and safety of staff.