E-waste is on the rise with the average UK household holding onto 30 unwanted and broken electricals, compared to 20 four years ago, warns a recycling campaign group.

Material Focus has published new research highlighting a “missed opportunity” as an increasing number of broken phones and TVs are being held onto or thrown away instead of being recycled.

The research comes as the UN reports that electronic waste is growing five times faster than documented recycling, with 62 million tonnes of e-waste produced in 2022, up 82% from 2010.

Commenting on the e-waste research, Scott Butler, executive director, Material Focus said: “We seem to be venturing into an era of hyper-tech-buying.

“The amount of electricals that we buy and use have soared in recent years by over a third since 2019, whether it’s the latest kitchen FadTech such as an air fryer, to fitness tech and FastTech – cheap small electricals such as mini-fans, charging cables, vapes, earphones and ear-buds.

“When electricals break or become unwanted too many of them end up being thrown away or are held onto unused. This is a significant missed opportunity.

“With the value of the materials inside our electricals increasing by up to 180% over the last four years it has never been more important to not lose that value.


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Material Focus said UK households are holding onto 880 million unused electrical items and throwing away 103,000 tonnes of electrical, costing the economy in £488 million lost valuable raw materials.

It said that 7.98 million tonnes of CO2 could also be saved – equivalent to 3.84 million cars being taken off the road each year, if electricals that are thrown away, held onto, stolen or illegally exported were recycled. Nearly £1 billion worth of precious materials could also be saved.

The group also used publicly available waste data flow to identify how the different UK regions contribute to the total UK waste electricals collected and recycled from local authorities.

Coming out on top was the south-east, with 13,700 tonnes recycled, ahead of London, 12,400 tonnes, then the North West, with 11,400 tonnes.

The government is failing to “grasp fully the scale of the e-waste tsunami”, MPs warned earlier this month.

Climate crisisMaterials and packagingNature and the environmentNewsRetailSocial sustainabilitySupply ChainTech

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