Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment and Batteries:
Many everyday consumer items are electrical and electronic equipment (EEE), such as mobile phones, computers, drills, hairdryers, as well as industrial items such as medical devices, and laboratory equipment. When these items reach their end of life they are defined as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). Lots of electronic goods contain hazardous materials like heavy metals or batteries. These materials can cause serious environmental damage and are dangerous to human health. There is a system in place in Ireland to help recycle these products. Recycling rather than dumping means valuable components can be used again in new products and there will be less mining of raw materials.
WEEE is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the developed world. Up to recently, a lot of WEEE was thrown into the bin and disposed of in landfill. Improved regulation of the collection, recycling and disposal of WEEE has been law at European level (WEEE Directive) and brought into Irish law (WEEE Regulations) since 2005. New Irish WEEE Regulations were published in March 2014, to implement changes that were introduced in Europe in the second WEEE Directive.
Also, many electrical items are powered by batteries. Batteries can contain heavy metals (mercury, cadmium, lead), which are the main cause for environmental concern. If waste batteries are not disposed of correctly, heavy metals may leak when the battery corrodes, and so can contribute to soil and water pollution and endanger human health. Due to the hazardous nature of batteries, separate legislation for the management of waste batteries was transposed into Irish law in 2008. The Battery Regulations include all types of batteries, such as portable, industrial and automotive.
Everyone has a role to play in the effective recovery of EEE and batteries at end of life, producers, distributors and consumers (end users).
The relatively high value of metal in recent times has resulted in increased theft of metal items, including WEEE and waste lead-acid batteries. The EPA has worked with the Garda National Crime Prevention Unit to develop guidance material on WEEE, batteries and metal theft prevention.