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Changes to electrical equipment recycling

Since 1 January 2021, large retailers have been required to take back waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) instore. WEEE includes most products that have a plug or need a battery, from laptops to hairdryers to fridges. 

At the most basic level, the scheme is run on a one-for-one and a like-for-like basis. Customers can return a product when they buy a new one. A receipt is considered proof of sale, and as long as an old item is returned within 28 days of a receipt being issued it will be accepted. This means anyone buying a new kettle would be able to return an old one, even if the old one was not bought in the same shop.

Online-only retailers have until 2022 to comply, although any of these with physical showrooms are now required to take back WEEE instore. And, some retailers may go beyond their minimum requirements and accept anything back. Indeed, retailers with an electronic equipment sales area of more than 400 square metres of floor space must accept 'very small items', defined as items with dimensions no greater than 25cm on any side or edge, irrespective of purchase.

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