Only a third of UK are recycling their old electricals

Only 2% of households are fixing their broken electricals

Media release, 14 October 2021

New market research commissioned by Material Focus has found that only a third of UK adults recycled their unwanted electricals over the last year, with an even smaller percentage of the population, 2%, either mending their electricals or taking them to be fixed.   The market research also found that over 40% of UK adults have thrown away an electrical item at least once in the last 12 months contributing towards the UK’s fastest growing waste stream.  These findings are supported by a report published last year by Material Focus which revealed that 155,000 tonnes of unwanted electricals are being thrown away by UK households each year, plus 527 million items hoarded in UK homes.  

The market research conducted by Opinium also found that:

  • Small personal care appliances such as toothbrushes, and small electrical accessories such as cables and earphones tend to get thrown away the most
  • Small tech such as laptops and iPads are more likely to get hoarded than other electricals and tend to get fixed slightly more than other electricals
  • Kids electrical toys are less likely to be recycled than other electricals and yet get donated the most

The national Recycle Your Electricals campaign aims to encourage UK households to stop throwing away or hoarding their small old electricals and instead start donating, fixing or recycling them. Electricals contain some of the most precious materials on our planet – gold, silver, copper, aluminum, and platinum, and for those items that are still working they could be worth as much as £620 per household.  

Scott Butler, Executive Director, Material Focus said:  “All the unwanted electricals that have either been thrown away or hoarded in UK homes, have a huge amount of value. We are losing some of the most precious materials on our planet forever by throwing them away.  Instead people could sell them for up to £620, donate to someone in need, or fix them if they are not working. And if none of these options work then we want everyone to recycle their unwanted electricals. To find out more visit our website www.recycleyourelectricals.org.uk

The campaign has also revealed that:

Selling your old electricals could make as much as £620 per household.  On average each UK household has one unused laptop and one unused tablet per household. The average price that could be achieved selling the laptop is £159 whilst the tablet could fetch an average price of £99. Mobile phones can command an average of £55 and games consoles £119. 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, 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 them £150, a donated device such as an iPad could save them 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 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.  To find your nearest recycling point recycle your electricals has a postcode finder – www.recycleyourelectricals.org.uk

Fixing your electricals – Having your electrical appliances and gadgets refurbished – or doing it yourself – can be great for your pocket, the planet and you too. There is a network of repair cafes and places where you can learn to fix your electricals across the UK.  For more information visit recycle your electricals. 

Ends

Note to Editors

For further press information please contact Kate Hinton – kate@matericalfocus.org.uk 

Market research

The research was conducted by Opinium, from 24th to 27th August 2021amongst 2,000 UK adults aged 18+ living in the UK. Results were weighted to nationally representative criteria. 

  • Small personal care appliances such as toothbrushes, and small electrical accessories such as cables and earphones tend to get thrown away the most 25% of those surveyed said they (or members of their household) had thrown this item away in the last 12 months
  • However, kids toys are less likely to be recycled (20%) than other electricals and yet get donated the most (20%)
  • Small tech such as laptops and iPads tend to get hoarded the most (15%)  and were most likely to get fixed (4%)

About Material Focus and the Recycle Your Electricals campaign 

Material Focus is a not-for-profit organisation whose goal is to stop the nation throwing away or hoarding all their old small electricals. Material Focus is delivering  the UK-wide Recycle Your Electricals campaign. 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 by providing more recycling points as well as providing practical information on how households can recycle.

The campaign is funded by producers of electrical appliances. The UK government sets annual targets for the recycling of all waste electricals, including small electricals. If producers of electrical appliances don’t meet this target, then they contribute towards a fund (WEEE Fund) which pays for a range of activities, including communications, behaviour change activities, increased recycling projects and research. Ultimately the aim is to support actions that will help the UK increase the levels of reuse and recycling of waste electricals.

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