Electricals are one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world and in the UK. We are hoarding 527 million unwanted electricals in our homes and every year 155,000 tonnes of these electricals are thrown away, instead of being reused or recycled.
Recycle Your Electricals is a campaign to tackle this issue. Its aim is to provide you with all you need to know about recycling your old electronics and tech. And it will make it as easy as possible to finally clear out that drawer you’ve got stuffed full of cables and old phones.
You might wonder why it’s so important that electrical items are recycled instead of thrown in the bin. Discarded electricals create e-waste and this is becoming a major threat to the environment and human health.
Old electricals actually contain tiny amounts of precious metals, such as gold, silver, platinum and palladium. When electricals are thrown away, they end up in landfill, meaning we lose these valuable metals forever. This costs the UK economy a huge £370 million as we can no longer recover and reuse these resources.
Not only is there an impact on the economy when we lose these precious resources, but there is also the damage caused to the environment. These metals never lose their properties, meaning they can be recycled over and over again and are still just as valuable. When we lose these materials to landfill, we have to continue to dig more raw materials out of the ground which is what harms our environment.
The effect on climate change is another growing issue when it comes to not recycling. Having to produce brand new electricals creates carbon emissions. We could save 2.8 millions of tonnes of CO2 emissions if we recycled our electricals instead of binning or hoarding them. That is the equivalent of taking 1.3 million cars off the road.
Lastly, there is the financial value hidden within unused electricals that is lost when they are thrown away or stashed in a drawer. Many electricals, tech and gadgets can be passed on or resold for as much as £620 per household.
So, if those are negative impacts of our sending old electricals to landfill but you might be asking what the positives of recycling are, and why you should do it.
Some of the top benefits of recycling your old tech include:
A Cleaner environment - Recycling unwanted electricals uses less energy and creates less waste than it would to make new products.
More for less - The precious materials contained within old electricals can be recycled and turned into anything from life-saving equipment, bicycles – and even children’s playground equipment. Recycling all 31 million laptops hidden in UK homes could provide enough material to make 5 million defibrillators, 159,000 bikes and 12,000 playground swings!
More cash - Across the UK, we’re hoarding £17 billion worth of electricals that we could put to better use by reselling or passing them on – imagine the extra cash and shelf space.
More jobs - Recycling all our old unwanted electricals would create hundreds of new jobs in the electrical reuse and recycling industry.
There are a few different ways in which you can help save the environment, reduce electrical waste and correctly dispose of old tech.
However, before sending all your old electricals off to be recycled, check what condition they are in and if they still work. It’s always worth seeing if your old tech can be donated or sold before you take it to the tip to be recycled.
Thousands of tonnes of the electricals in landfill are still in working condition. Items like phones, laptops and cameras can all be put to better use and donated to those in need. Lots of highstreet charities would love your unwanted electricals. British Red Cross, Sue Ryder, Emmaus, British Heart Foundation, Marie Curie and FARA are a few which all accept donations of old tech.
Donating is a win-win. You reduce the demand for raw materials, lower the CO2 emissions and most rewardingly give low-income households access to affordable goods.
Selling your old tech is a great way to earn a little extra cash. On average, each UK household could earn up to £620 from the unused electricals they have lying around their homes!
Check out peer-to-peer marketplaces, like eBay or Gumtree, to get the most value for your old tech. Or if you’re replacing a product, some retailers offer trade-in programmes and buy back your old one.
Just make sure you have deleted all your data and personal information before you sell or donate your old tech. You can find a handy how-to guide on the Recycle Your Electricals website.
Everything with a plug, battery or cable can be recycled. That means your old smartphone, toaster, electric toothbrush and all those cables. To find out more, check out the Uswitch guide to recycling old tech.
So if you have old tech that is no longer working and you decide it cannot be sold on or donated, you can use the Recycling Locator on the Recycle Your Electricals website to find your nearest recycling point, all you have to do is enter your postcode.
There are currently over 3,000 points across the UK, so there should be one near you. These include Household Waste Recycling Centres, but also some shops who accept old tech like phones in-store for recycling.
If you want to hang on to a beloved piece of tech for yourself, seeing if it can be repaired is a great option. You can have your gadgets repaired and refurbished professionally. There are repair cafes across the UK, where you can drop in and have your tech repaired.
It’s hard to beat the feeling you get from a good-as-new product that didn’t cost the Earth.