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UK households sitting on £5.6bn of unwanted tech, research suggests

Campaigners have urged the public to sell or recycle their old gadgets ahead of International E-waste Day on Friday and amid cost-of-living fears.

Martyn Landi
Thursday 13 October 2022 15:26 BST
Electrical goods at the Wincanton recycling plant in Billingham, Teesside, waiting to be recycled (PA)
Electrical goods at the Wincanton recycling plant in Billingham, Teesside, waiting to be recycled (PA) (PA Archive)

Unwanted electrical gadgets worth £5.6 billion are being hoarded in UK homes, according to new research, as campaigners urge people to recycle devices to slow rising levels of e-waste.

The new study by e-waste compliance group Repic estimates that around 20.7 million unused but working electricals are sitting in homes across the country, alongside a further 18.6 million broken gadgets.

Released ahead of International E-waste Day on Friday, the research has raised concern among campaigners, with Recycle Your Electricals, a campaign run by not-for-profit Material Focus, finding that 155,000 tonnes of waste electricals is being thrown away in the UK each year.

Electricals and tech are valuable, and this value will be lost forever if they are thrown away. Anything with a plug, battery or cable should always be recycled as a minimum

Scott Butler, executive director of Material Focus

The campaigners say e-waste is the fastest-growing waste stream in the world and are asking the public to resell or recycle their old devices to help cut these figures.

They estimate that more than 11 million laptops and 9 million tablets in the UK have the potential to be sold or recycled, as do 18.5 million games consoles and 6.5 million computers – with 33% of households having at least one device that could be recycled.

And amid growing concerns about the cost of living, the research notes that many of the most commonly hoarded tech items have re-sale values of several hundred pounds – with the average household able to raise around £200 by selling old devices, according to the research.

It said that games consoles, on average, can range from around £110 for an Xbox One to £200 for a Nintendo Switch, while laptops can have a re-sale value of between £270 and £420.

Scott Butler, executive director of Material Focus, said: “This new research has shown again what we know.

“There is a huge amount of value in a household’s unwanted electricals, whether sold so that they can be reused, donated to help those in need, or recycled so that the valuable materials inside our devices can be recovered and made into something new.

“Electricals and tech are valuable, and this value will be lost forever if they are thrown away. Anything with a plug, battery or cable should always be recycled as a minimum.”

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