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More than two-thirds of British households are piling up old phone chargers at home – and the length-equivalent of these is enough to take you around the Earth five times. We’ve compiled surprising stats in this article that will throw some light on the UK electronic waste crisis. Let’s learn more about the e-waste problem and identify how each of us can help the environment.
The UK is one of the largest producers of e-waste in the world, with 23.9kg of e-waste on average produced per head, according to the Environmental Audit Committee’s Electronic Waste and the Circular Economy report – that’s almost a third of an adult’s average body weight, which stands at 70.8 kg.
In just the first six months of 2021 alone the UK produced 148,134.09 tonnes of e-waste, the equivalent weight of 15 Eiffel Towers.
On the occasion of the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), we surveyed 2,000 UK residents to find out more about the extent of household e-waste production in the UK and how many are still unaware of how to safely dispose of cables, laptops, smartphones and more.
How widespread is the UK’s e-waste issue?
According to our data, Brits are hoarding up to 60 items of old, unused tech per household. Over two thirds (68%) are holding onto at least one old charger – and of these, more than one in 10 (12%) have three unused chargers taking up space in drawers, cupboards, basements and attics.
Along with old charging cables, laptops, smartphones, and mobile phones are also common pieces of tech Brits are holding onto despite not using them anymore. More than half of our survey respondents (52%) said they keep at least one unused laptop tucked away, while 51% have kept at least one smartphone that’s more than 5 years old.
A third (33%) know that most of the tech they’re hoarding isn’t in working condition, and one in 10 admit they are holding onto tech knowing none of it actually works.
The study has revealed there’s still much to be done to raise awareness of the issue of e-waste in the UK, and its effects on the environment.
Why is e-waste a problem?
Data from the Environment Agency reveals that in the 2010s, the UK produced 3,865,439.761 tonnes of e-waste, enough to build two-thirds of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
When it comes to the charging cables and wires stashed in our homes, the UK collectively holds onto about 140 million of these – 124,505 miles of cable in total. That’s enough to wrap around the Earth five times or stretch more than half of the 238,855 mile trip to the Moon.
When we discard our old tech to landfill, there’s a risk of toxic substances from the components making their way into soil and water.
We’re also discarding precious and finite resources. Modern electronics are made using materials such as gold, copper, and cobalt. Disposing of old tech rather than recycling it means we lose these resources; a 2019 report by the World Economic Forum estimated the material value of the world’s e-waste at £46bn.
As extracting new materials from the Earth becomes more expensive and carries with it more risk of environmental harm, it’s increasingly important that we put our old tech to good use.
Do you know how to recycle old technology?
Particularly for older generations, recycling old tech is a topic Brits seem to lack knowledge on – 38% of people aged 45-54 said they’ve never recycled tech before and don’t know how to.
Millennials are most in-the-know, with almost a third (31%) saying they’re confident in their knowledge of the matter and have recycled their old tech products several times.
Top tips for safely disposing of your old tech
There are many ways to dispose of electronics without having to contribute to landfill. You can donate to one of several charities and tech initiatives or use a professional recycling service to ensure your old devices are properly and safely disposed of.
Here are our Top Tips for safely disposing of your old tech:
Look for recycling centres near you: some local authorities collect small electrical items as part of their curbside collection, but you can also recycle these and larger appliances at Household Waste Recycling Centres. You can find a list of these near you here.
The British Heart Foundation also offers a free, Covid-secure collection service for working electronics. These may then be sold in their stores or online, meaning your unused and unneeded tech is contributing to good causes.
WeeeCharity is a non-profit charity registered in the UK that helps to relieve poverty by offering free recycling of computers and electrical equipment, no matter what condition it’s in. These electronics are then recycled, donated, or resold back to the community.
Mazuma is one of many online businesses that will buy your old smartphones, tablets, games consoles, watches, and laptops from you. You can either get cash, or an e-voucher (worth 10% extra).
And we’re taking steps to promote electronic waste recycling and reduce our environmental impact. In partnership with Raspberry Pi and the Sony Technology Centre, we launched the first official Raspberry Pi recycling scheme, OKdo Renew. You can now send any model of pre-loved Raspberry Pi board to us free of charge and in return, you will receive a £10 voucher for use on OKdo.com.
Richard Curtin, SVP of Technology at OKdo commented:
“Our research has shown there’s still much to be done about raising awareness on the environmental impact of e-waste across the nation.
The data suggests a third of UK adults don’t seem to know much about ways to recycle their old tech items, and across the board people are keeping hold of unused objects instead of disposing of them correctly.
Here at OKdo, we are taking steps to promote electronic waste recycling and reduce our environmental impact. One of our initiatives is our Raspberry Pi recycling scheme, OKdo Renew, in partnership with Raspberry PI and the Sony Technology centre.
By offering this service, which provides a £10 voucher for every recycled Raspberry Pi board, we’re hoping to encourage the public to think of ways technology can impact the environment, and give them incentives to recycle and give their old tech a new life.”
- Survey of 2,000 UK residents conducted in October 2021.
- Headline stat 28.081 million (UK households) x 60 (number of items) = 1684860000 (1.68 billion). Number of estimated UK Households in 2021 sourced from IBISWorld
- Data on average e-waste production per head: Electronic waste and the circular economy by the Environmental Audit Committee
- Data on e-waste produced between 2010 and 2021: Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in the UK by the Environment Agency
- Details on the Eiffel Tower’s measurements/weight from Tour Eiffel Official Website.
- Earth/Moon distance, from NASA Space place.
- Weight of a Blue Whale , from WWF
- Average weight of an adult (Europe) from The weight of nations: an estimation of adult human biomass
- Details on the Great Pyramid of Giza’s weight from The Great Pyramid of Giza
- Estimated material value of the world’s e-waste from the World Economic Forum
Visit our OKdo Renew page to learn more about how we are promoting electronic waste recycling, aiming to reduce our environmental impact. We’ve got an amazing deal for you! You can get a £10 voucher for use on OKdo.com when you send any model of pre-loved Raspberry Pi board to us free of charge.
Your Raspberry Pi computer will then be tested to original Raspberry Pi standards at the Sony Technology Centre where they are originally manufactured and then renewed ready for another life.
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