UK retailers will pay for public e-waste recycling from 2026

UK retailers and manufacturers of electronic goods will be paying for the cost of household and in-store e-waste collections, under the latest plans from the UK government.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has ruled that, starting from 2026, businesses will be responsible for implementing and funding the improved routes for recycling broken or unwanted consumer electronic goods.

The e-waste initiative has been designed to reduce the burden on taxpayers while still encouraging responsible disposal of electronic waste, which includes everything from phones to toasters and power tools to broken Christmas lights.

Defra’s new plan will allow consumers to either schedule bespoke home collections for their e-waste or drop items off at a local shop.

Larger retailers will need to create “collection drop points for electrical items in-store” where consumers can drop them off for free. There will be no need to make a new purchase.

“Every year millions of household electricals across the UK end up in the bin rather than being correctly recycled or reused. This is a sheer waste of our natural resources and has to stop,” said recycling minister, Robbie Moore.


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He added: “We all have a drawer of old tech somewhere that we don’t know what to do with and our proposals will ensure these gadgets are easy to dispose of without the need for a trip to your local tip.”

Government figures revealed that around 155,000 tonnes of smaller household electricals are wrongly thrown in the bin each year, with UK homes believed to hoard 527 million unwanted electrical items.

Almost half a billion small electrical items ended up in landfill last year, according to data from the not-for-profit Material Focus. The e-waste generated during the festive period shows the scale of the UK’s problem, with 500 tonnes of Christmas lights being discarded every year.

Defra also stated that retailers will have to collect any broken or unwanted large electrical goods – such as fridges or cookers – when they are delivering a replacement.

AO.com managing director Rob Sant, who looks after e-waste recycling operations, said the business has invested £20m in managing its e-waste and is now the “only UK electricals retailer with its own fridge recycling plant”.

“Being both a retailer and a recycler gives us a unique perspective to input to this consultation on the practicalities for our industry, driving higher standards and making it easier for customers to recycle more electrical waste,” he added.

The latest e-waste proposals build on the Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive, which came into effect in 2012 and follows the principle that the producer of the waste should fund responsible disposal.

Both the UK and EU have already followed this principle in other consumer product areas, such as plastic packaging.

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1 Comment. Leave new

  • It would make sense for e drop off to be done sooner rather than later, the vast majority of waste is small devices (60 are produced every second) (phones, laptops, pads, video and music players). As with batteries, supermarkets, major transport hubs and obviously all those repair shops etc could have drop off bins put in place very quickly with an arrangement with e recylers to pick up. Few people will take a special trip to the local recycling centre – which is the only place you can currently dispose of waste – hence all the explosions at recycling sorting sites.
    DEFRA are doing too little and too slowly. Maybe offer a reward for small shops to collect, or maybe big advertising will help attract compensating business.

    Reply

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