There’s not much Rachelle Strauss doesn’t know about waste and recycling. The author, campaigner and sustainability consultant is founder of the award-winning Zero Waste Week. Since 2008 the Zero Waste campaign has got thousands of businesses and millions of ordinary people thinking hard about the hows and whys of reducing waste and making more of the precious, finite resources this planet affords us.
But even Rachelle had to do a double-take when she learned about the sheer volume of unwanted, unused electricals hiding away in UK homes. And in her own home to boot.
“I don’t know about you, but when I root around in the kitchen ‘junk’ drawer, I’m pretty horrified by what’s in there,” she writes on her Little Green Blog.
“As well as all those ‘must-have’ utensils that have rarely seen the light of day, there are all those old handsets and gadgets. Not to mention the transformers and charging leads that don’t seem to match anything you still own.”
In fact, Rachelle,learned, her kitchen-drawer stash is just part of a global problem. The cables hoarded in UK homes alone could circle the planet more than five times, according to research by Recycle Your Electricals. And there’s more. Globally we generate over 50 million tonnes of electrical waste a year, equivalent to 7.3 kg for every man, woman and child on Earth.
But it’s not just a numbers game. There’s a real cost to the planet and people. “The trouble is electrical waste contains valuable materials such as gold, silver, aluminum and copper,” Rachelle reflects. And mining for these precious metals has serious environmental impacts.
But her work is all about solving problems. And Rachelle’s blog delights in reporting on efforts around the world to crack the e-waste crisis – from students in the US learning how to repair electronics, to a start-up in India creating plant pots from recycled electrical waste, to a major jewellery brand planning to buy only recycled metals.
So she is happy to get behind the Give-Back January campaign and start bringing the message home – literally. “Scour those drawers and cupboards,” says Rachelle. “Find all those old, unwanted gadgets and recycle your electricals!”