The WEEE Legislation: a general overview

In 2003, with the Directive 2002/96/EC, the European Union defined for the first time a WEEE collection and recycling system that directly involved the equipment Producers: in fact, they were given the responsibility not only to finance but also to manage the WEEE after the collection phase entrusted to Municipalities and Distributors.
The European Community established two goals in introducing the principle of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) in the WEEE management: on the one hand, avoiding the dispersion of hazardous substances in the environment - such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) contained in the refrigerant circuits and in the polyurethane foams of old generation refrigerators and freezers - on the other, to maximize the recycling of Secondary Raw Materials (iron, copper, aluminum and plastics) contained in this waste, whose recovery requires, among other things, a quantity of energy that is considerably lower than that required to extract the virgin raw materials.
In 2005, with the Legislative Decree n. 151, Italy implemented the European legislation.
Before this Decree, the electrical and electronic waste management was carried out by the Local Authorities based on the Ronchi Decree. The Local Authorities had to take care not only of collecting the WEEE from the citizens, but also of carrying out the treatment of this waste. This happened, of course, with a strong lack of homogeneity on the national territory.

The Decree 151/2005 was followed by the Legislative Decree n. 49 of 14 March 2014, which acknowledged the new European Directive 2012/19 / EU.

The current rule establishes that:

  • the citizens have the task of keeping the WEEE separate from the other urban waste and delivering them to those responsible of the collection;
  • the Municipalities must make available to the citizens designated structures (recycling areas, also called collection and recycling facilities or ecological platforms or eco-centers or recycling centers) and services (such as the household waste collection) for the WEEE separate collection. The activities carried out by the Municipalities are financed through the local taxes;
  • the AEE Distributors must carry out the free collection of WEEE when the consumer purchases the equivalent equipment - the One to One collection;
  • the AEE Distributors with a store bigger than 400 square meters must carry out the free collection of very small WEEE (with a size less than 25 cm) even when the consumer does not buy anything - the One to zero collection;
  • the Electrical and Electronic Equipment Producers (through the Consortia to which they belong) must collect the WEEE both from the Municipal Recycling Facilities and from the Collection Areas set up by the Distributors and transport them to the treatment plants. In these plants, the WEEE is disassembled and minced, separating the Raw Materials that compose them: iron, copper, aluminum, plastic, glass. It is also at this phase that all the polluting substances present are "captured" and then properly disposed of, avoiding the dispersion into the environment.

Finally, the law allows the Producers to apply a surcharge, to the sale price of the new EEE called the WEEE Eco-Contribution, which serves to entirely finance the activities for which they are responsible.