You’ll find it on electrical goods such as televisions, batteries, phones, fridges, household gadgets and even light bulbs.
What does the symbol mean?
A new law came out in August 2007 with the aim of minimising the impact of electrical and electronic goods on the environment.
That symbol is the WEEE symbol (Waste electrical and electronic equipment) and it basically means, don’t chuck it in the bin!
Put simply, WEEE encourages us to re-use, recycling and reducing the amount of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) going to landfill.
Why can’t I WEEE in the bin?
This law states that any electric or electronic equipment that is no longer needed (anything with a battery or plug to you and I, such as washing machines, vacuum cleaners, kettles, computers or battery-operated children’s toys) cannot go into the landfill and has to be disposed of separately from household rubbish.
In 2006, we dumped a shocking one million tonnes of electrical goods into the landfill. This is set to rise as more and more electrical goods have inbuilt obsolescence and are so cheap it is more economical for consumers to throw them away than repair.
Throwing them away however, is not a good choice. Electronic goods contain hazardous substances such as lead which can affect the environment, leach into groundwater and effect our health if they are disposed of incorrectly.
Recycling WEEE, on the other hand, helps to recover valuable resources such as precious metals, plastics and steel which reduce the need for raw materials.
How do I responsibly dispose of electric and electronic goods?
Retailers have to offer consumers a way to get rid of old equipment when you buy the new equivalent. Small lightweight objects such as kettles can be taken back to the store when you buy a new one. For larger items, they will give you information about local collection from your authority. Alternatively, they will take back the items themselves.
For bulky deliveries such as a washing machine or cooker, retailers will take away your old equipment when they deliver the new goods.
If you buy a small item online, such as a router, check to see if the company you are buying from offers a Freepost address for returning your old equipment.
If you have a designated WEEE collection facility at your local household waste site you can take goods there or ring your council for collection. Check out where your nearest participating facility is with Recycle Now.
If you are getting rid of something in working order then consider donating it. Ask around your friends, family, work colleagues or local hospital. Alternatively, sign up for your local Freecycle group where you can offer your items for free.