By the late 1990s some European countries had already began to treat Electrical and Electronic Equipment Waste (WEEE) as a separate waste stream and the basic premises for the rational management of this waste category were set.
In early 2003, the European Parliament Directive 2002/96 delineated the legal framework governing WEEE recycling in all Member States of the European Union. In sum, this EC Directive clearly states that:
- WEEE is a particular waste stream and each Member State should strive to separate them from other solid waste;
- WEEE recycling funding should be the responsibility of the producer. In other words, the manufacturer, or the seller, of the equipment should be liable for funding recycling.
- WEEE are categorized into the following groups:
- Large household appliances
- Small household appliances
- IT and telecommunications equipment
- Consumer equipment
- Lighting equipment
- Electrical and electronic tools (except large-scale stationary industrial tools)
- Toys, leisure and sports equipment
- Medical devices (except of all implanted and infected products)
- Monitoring and control instruments
- Automatic dispensers
- The management of each of these categories is governed by specific technical specifications, which aim at, on one hand the safe handling of hazardous for the environment components and substances, and on the other the maximization of the degree of recovery and recycling of such materials.