Cash in the attic? £17bn could be made by UK households selling their old electricals

Media release, 11 November 2020.

As we all brace ourselves for ongoing lockdown measures and the impending financial gloom it brings, the Recycle Your Electricals Campaign launches ‘Cash in Your Electricals’. The campaign calls on the people of the UK to sell, donate or recycle their old, hoarded electricals – worth an average re-sale value of £620 per household, to help themselves or their communities through the recession. 

Teaming up with broadcaster Kate Thornton and personal finance expert Paul Lewis, the initiative also highlights the little-known fact that many working unwanted electricals can be donated to charity, once lockdown is lifted, to help improve the lives of others. 

The campaign also revealed that:

  • We remain a nation of hoarders. UK households are hoarding 527 million small old electricals, including 31 million laptops.
  • £620 per household could be made from second-hand re-sale of their hoarded electricals.
  • On average each household in the UK is hoarding nearly 20 small old electricals for over 2.4 years.
  • Recycling the old electricals currently hoarded or thrown away will save the UK economy over £370 million in lost raw materials such as gold, copper, aluminium and steel.
  • Donating your old electricals to someone in need could help save around £150 per appliance.

Shining a light on what to do with our old electricals during this economically and socially challenging time, Paul and Kate appear together in a video sharing tips and information on how to sell, donate or recycle our old electricals. Paul also issues general advice to help us recession-proof our finances.

Paul Lewis’s tips include:

  • Start budgeting now – get out your statements or log in to online banking and go through each line ruthlessly. Then, look at your debts, dealing with the most expensive first. There are schemes now to freeze payments – which are worth checking out. If you are going to miss a payment talk to the lender – they have all been told to be sympathetic and helpful. Finally, if you have savings, look at them. This could be the emergency you have put them aside for.
  • Get your benefits. As your income falls, you may be entitled to benefits like Universal Credit or a council tax reduction. Check it out using the free, anonymous, calculator at www.turn2us.org.uk.
  • Claim back tax. If you have lost your job, then you will probably be due money back from the taxman. Go to gov.uk and search ‘tax refunds’.
  • Anyone born between 1 September 2002 and 2 January 2011 has a little pot of money with their name on it from the government. If you are 18 you can get hold of it – the average worth £1,000. Do it for free, through sharefound.org.
  • Scattered around our homes are an average of 20 small, unwanted electricals. Do you have that many or more? Pile them up on the kitchen counter and divide them into ‘Sell. Donate. Recycle’. You will be surprised.

How you can release the potential in your old electricals

In addition to the tens of millions of old laptops, there is also a mountain of hairdryers, straighteners, speakers, small kitchen appliances and games consoles in the UK, and enough old cables to circle the Earth five times. Like Paul and Kate, you too can do something useful with your hoarded electrical items. Take time to declutter them, then go through and divide them into three piles; sell, donate, and recycle. Pop the donate and recycled pieces into a bag, ready for when lockdown has lifted and local recycling and donation facilities have re-opened.  

Once you’ve done this, go to the Recycle Your Electricals recycling locator. Simply pop in your postcode and you’ll find your nearest recycling points and links to charities who will gratefully accept your unwanted electrical donations.

Sell. On average the nation has one unused laptop and one unused tablet per household. The average price that could be achieved selling the laptop is £165 and the tablet could fetch an average price of £110. Mobile phones can command an average of £110 and games consoles £125. Search online for a peer-to-peer selling site that is best for you; these include eBay and Gumtree, but also the neighbourhood social networking site Nextdoor. 

Donate. Perhaps you are lucky enough to escape the recession relatively unscathed. If so, now is a perfect time to help someone else who is finding it more challenging. Many families are crying out for tech. With so many working from home for the first time, school homework going online, and vulnerable, older people having to use tech in their day-to-day lives, possibly for the first time, it’s more essential than ever to keep in touch with loved ones. And it’s not just smart devices: an old washing machine or fridge freezer could save someone £150, and a donated device such as an iPad could save around £100, making all the difference to someone’s life. A range of charities can help – visit recycle your electricals for more information.    

Recycle. We should never put old electricals into our general rubbish, they will end up in landfill or incinerated, and the precious, finite metals stored in them will have to be found elsewhere at a huge cost to the environment. If all the old laptops hoarded across the UK were recycled, they could provide enough aluminium to produce 159,000 bikes; enough steel to make 12,000 playground swings; or enough plastic to make nearly 5 million life-saving defibrillators. Recycling all the small, old electricals hoarded in homes or thrown away each year would save 2.8 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, the equivalent of taking 1.3 million cars off the road.

Kate Thornton said: “It’s been truly eye-opening to be part of the Recycle Your Electricals ‘Cash in Your Electricals’ campaign alongside Paul Lewis. I’ve always been environmentally conscious and cautious with money, but in the future, and in the coming months especially I will follow the ‘sell, donate, recycle’ rule when tackling old, hoarded electricals. I had a lot more of them in my home than I thought, and I am determined to do something useful with them from now on.”

Paul Lewis added: “Whether you have struggled financially in recent months or you have been OK, there are positive steps all of us can take to help ourselves or each other financially through coronavirus times. Look closely, and there really is treasure in our trash that can be sold, donated to someone who needs it, or recycled to ease the strain on the environment. The Recycle Your Electricals ‘Cash in Your Electricals’ campaign and the ‘sell, donate, recycle’ rule for old or unwanted electricals is something I’m following. You should too.”

Scott Butler, Executive Director of Material Focus, said: “Our research has shown that there is a huge amount of value in unwanted electricals – whether you sell them so that they can be reused, donated so that someone else in need can benefit, or recycled so that the valuable materials inside our devices or appliances can be made into new items. These items are valuable and will be lost forever if they are thrown away – anything with a plug, battery or cable can be easily recycled.”

For further press information please contact East of Eden:

peter.cuthbertson@eastofeden.london

Notes to Editors

About the Recycle Your Electricals campaign

Recycle Your Electricals has a goal to stop the nation throwing away or hoarding all their old small electricals. The campaign is revealing the value hidden in electricals and is making it easier for us all to recycle and reuse the small electricals we no longer need. The campaign is doing this by providing more recycling points as well as providing practical information on how households can recycle.

Worried about how to wipe personal data from smart devices? Follow these easy steps:

  • Back up the data from your device and any memory cards.
  • Wipe all personal data from your device and reset to original settings. This is called a factory reset.
  • Remove any SIM and memory cards from the device.

More on preparing your items for reuse or recycling.

 Other key stats

  • Our most commonly hoarded items are charging cables; just over 138 million, enough to circle the Earth five times.
  • This is followed by remote controls. We have an average of two per household – that’s over 57 million of them in UK homes, and 3 million of us have 5-15 of them.
  • There are over 8 million unwanted hair dryers, 11 million unwanted irons stashed and nearly 12 million unwanted kettles in UK households.

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