We found that two-fifths of households (42%) have an unused router in their home, with one in seven homes (14%) owning two or more unused routers.
More than one million tonnes of electrical waste is produced by UK households and businesses each year, according to estimates from e-waste research organisation Material Focus.
Depending on the age of your broadband equipment, some providers will ask you to return it to them for repurposing or recycling, and others will give you details of where and how to recycle your router yourself.
Here’s how to recycle your broadband router once you’re done with it.
Of all the major providers, Sky provides you with the most equipment, since Sky Q TV is one of its most popular products. If you received a Sky Q set-top box when you took out your Sky contract, chances are the company will ask you to return it to them if you choose to switch providers.
Any Sky Q or Sky Broadband equipment received after 4 March 2020 is technically on loan to you from Sky, so will need to be returned once your service is ended. If you don’t return your Sky equipment, you’ll be charged a non-return fee for each item you don’t return.
In a large household with multiple Sky set-top boxes, routers and Wi-Fi extenders, this can quickly add up:
Sky Q 1TB box - £115
Sky Q 2TB box - £135
Sky Q Mini box - £50
Sky Q Hub/Sky Broadband Hub - £50
Sky Broadband Booster - £35
Depending on your contract, you will have a specific amount of time to return your equipment — typically 60 days — before you are charged.
First, contact Sky directly to confirm you need to return the equipment.
Box everything up, including cables, remotes and documentation. If you have the original packaging, all the better.
Visit Sky’s Royal Mail returns page and enter the details of the package. You’ll then have to fill in your details and you’ll receive an email with a return label attached.
Print and attach the label to the package and drop it off at your local Post Office. You can also choose to print the returns label at the post office if you don’t have access to a printer.
If you’re not required to return your Sky router or set-top box, you can still return old equipment to Sky to dispose of safely and sustainably.
If you have equipment marked with the following symbol, then it’s not safe to dispose of it with your general household waste.
In this case, it’s easiest and safest to simply return it to Sky anyway so that they can reuse parts or recycle whatever they can’t reuse.
Ready to leave Sky? Check out our latest broadband deals to compare faster, cheaper deals.
Like Sky, BT has the policy that all of your broadband and TV equipment is technically on loan from BT. As such, if you’ve taken out a BT contract on or after 13 December 2019, you’ll need to return it to them when you switch providers.
And like Sky, if you don’t return your broadband equipment within 60 days, you’ll incur charges for each item of equipment you keep hold of:
Home Hub, Smart Hub - £43
Smart Hub 2 - £50
BT TV Box (Z4) - £60
BT TV Recordable Box (G4) - £89
BT TV 4K Recordable Box (G5) - £115
BT TV Box Pro - £115
Hybrid Connect - £63
Complete Wi-Fi discs - £30 per disc
If you return your equipment after this time, you will receive either an account credit or a refund cheque to your last registered address.
BT reportedly received over one million pieces of returned equipment in 2020 and were able to recycle roughly half of that for new broadband customers. By recycling rather than manufacturing new routers and equipment, BT estimates that it was able to prevent 170 tonnes of electrical waste.
You should receive a white returns bag from BT when you switch or cancel your service, but you can also request one by logging into your My BT account, selecting ‘View details’ and navigating to ‘Please return your equipment'.
You simply need to attach your returns label and drop off your parcel at your nearest Post Office. You can also arrange to have it collected from your home by arranging an at-home collection for an additional fee of 60p.
Be sure to keep proof of postage in both cases just in case there are any delays or problems with delivery.
Note: Do not take equipment into BT stores, as they won’t be able to accept returned equipment.
Ready to leave BT? Check out our latest broadband deals to compare faster, cheaper deals.
Virgin Media will also reuse or recycle its equipment, and will always request that its newer pieces of kit are returned directly to them. These include:
Super Hub 2AC
Virgin TV V6 box
Hub 3 and 4
WiFi Boosters and WiFi Pods
If you leave Virgin Media and switch to a new broadband provider, you’ll be sent a pre-paid a returns envelope that you can use to return your equipment.
Drop your completed returns bag at a Collect Plus store to return everything back to Virgin Media for free.
If you’re a Virgin Media customer with any other equipment, Virgin Media simply asks that you recycle it responsibly as it currently cannot be reused. If you visit the Virgin Media 'Recycling my kit’ page, you’ll be able to type in your postcode to find the nearest appropriate recycling centre.
Ready to leave Virgin Media? Check out our latest broadband deals to compare faster, cheaper deals.
You can return your Plusnet router via this Royal Mail link. Plusnet will then reuse whatever working parts it can and dispose of the rest in an environmentally friendly way.
Plusnet is also part of the WEEE scheme (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment), and as such is obligated to dispose of products and equipment in “the best, earth-friendly way.”
For this you’ll need to cover the postage yourself and send your old Plusnet router to the following address:
WEEE Take Back Scheme Plusnet Returns BT DF Darlington Road Northallerton DL6 7ZY
Ready to leave Plusnet? Check out our latest broadband deals to compare faster, cheaper deals.
TalkTalk also asks you to return your broadband router and TV box when you leave, upgrade or replace your equipment. TalkTalk has made great efforts to reduce the amount of electronic waste that ends up in landfills. Working with SCC recycling plant, TalkTalk has saved over 20,000 tonnes of CO2 between 2015 and 2021.
TalkTalk offer Royal Mail returns for customers to send back their old equipment. You can choose to have your router collected directly from your home or workplace, or drop it off at one of over 14,000 Royal Mail drop off points.
In fact, TalkTalk also states that you can send in any other equipment that wasn’t originally supplied by them and they'll recycle that for you for free as well.
Royal Mail Parcel Collect: Attach the pre-paid Parcel Collect label to your postage back then visit the Royal Mail collection booking page to arrange an at-home collection.
Royal Mail: Drop off your returns bag to your local Post Office branch or Royal Mail Customer Service Point in over 12,000 locations.
Evri/Hermes ParcelShop: Attach the pre-paid Hermes label to your postage bag and return it through your local Evri/Hermes ParcelShop in over 4,500 locations.
Note: If you leave TalkTalk and you don't return your TalkTalk equipment within 42 days of receiving your postage bag, you could be charged £50.00 for the equipment you’ve kept.
Ready to leave TalkTalk? Check out our latest broadband deals to compare faster, cheaper deals.
Check out our guide for more sustainable phones and eco-friendly tech tips.