Saturday, July 20, 2024

Nearly half a billion small tech items thrown away

Did you know that nearly half a billion small electrical items were thrown away last year? According to research from Material Focus, these fast-tech items, such as cables, lights, mini fans, and disposable vapes, are the fastest-growing form of electronic waste. The average home also has about thirty unused electrical items just gathering dust. While these items may seem disposable due to their low cost, they actually contain valuable raw materials that can be recycled. Material Focus is urging people to realize that anything with a plug, battery, or cable can be recycled, and there are convenient locations to do so. Let’s take a closer look at this growing issue of e-waste and how we can make a difference.

Nearly half a billion small tech items thrown away

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Research from Material Focus

The fastest-growing e-waste type

According to research conducted by Material Focus, nearly half a billion small electrical items, also known as “Fast Tech,” were thrown away last year. These items include cables, lights, mini fans, and disposable vapes, and they represent the fastest-growing type of e-waste. Fast Tech items are similar to fast fashion in the sense that they are designed to be disposable, even though they contain valuable raw materials that can be recycled.

Average home has thirty unused electrical items

The research by Material Focus also reveals that the average home has around thirty unused electrical items gathering dust. These items, such as cables, mobile phones, and remote controls, could all be put to better use if recycled or repurposed. It highlights the importance of encouraging people to recognize the value of these items and dispose of them properly.

Valuable raw materials in these items

Fast Tech items and other small electricals contain valuable raw materials, including copper wires and lithium batteries. These materials can be recovered through the recycling process, helping to reduce the need for new extraction and manufacturing. By recycling these items, we can minimize waste and conserve valuable resources.

Survey of 2000 people commissioned by Material Focus

To gather this information, Material Focus commissioned a survey of 2000 people conducted by Opinium Research. The survey aimed to understand consumer behavior and attitudes towards small electrical items and e-waste. The findings provide valuable insights into the current state of electrical waste and highlight the need for increased awareness and recycling initiatives.

Amount of Electrical Waste

Decreased since 2017

Despite the growing number of Fast Tech items and unused electrical items in homes, the research from Material Focus also suggests that the overall amount of electrical waste has decreased since 2017. This is partially due to technological advancements, as many electrical items are now smaller and lighter, resulting in less waste. Additionally, recycling rates have risen, with 60% of people now saying they recycle their electricals.

Lighter electrical items

One of the reasons for the decrease in electrical waste is the trend towards lighter and more compact electrical items. Advancements in technology have allowed manufacturers to design smaller and lighter products without compromising functionality. This means that less material is required to produce these items, resulting in reduced waste.

Rising recycling rates

The research also indicates that more people are embracing recycling as a responsible way to dispose of their electrical items. Recycling rates have been on the rise, with 60% of people now actively recycling their electricals. This is an encouraging trend that reflects a growing awareness of the importance of proper waste management and the environmental impact of electronic waste.

Unused electrical items in homes

Despite the decrease in electrical waste, many households still have a significant number of unused electrical items. Material Focus’s research shows that the average home has around thirty unused electricals, including cables, mobile phones, and remote controls. These items often end up gathering dust or being thrown away, even though they could be recycled or repurposed.

Nearly half a billion small tech items thrown away

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Global Picture

9 billion tons of e-waste thrown away annually

The issue of e-waste is not limited to the UK alone; it is a global problem. Each year, consumers worldwide throw away a staggering 9 billion tons of cables, toys, vapes, novelty clothes, and other electronic devices. This immense amount of waste has significant environmental and social consequences, and it highlights the urgent need for effective e-waste management strategies.

Consumers often don’t recognize e-waste

One of the challenges in addressing the e-waste problem is that many consumers do not recognize their discarded items as e-waste. Research from the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Forum suggests that consumers often discard items without realizing their classification as electronic waste. Increasing awareness and education about the importance of responsible e-waste disposal is crucial in combating this issue.

Disposable Vapes

260 million thrown away last year

Disposable vapes are one of the fastest-growing categories of Fast Tech items. According to a survey conducted by YouGov, 260 million disposable vapes were thrown away last year alone. These items pose a significant environmental problem due to their single-use nature and the difficulty in recycling them. The increasing popularity of disposable vapes highlights the need for better waste management and recycling initiatives in the vaping industry.

Survey conducted by YouGov

The data on disposable vapes comes from a survey conducted by YouGov, where 5,156 adults were surveyed between June and August. It provides valuable insights into consumer behavior and attitudes towards disposable vapes, shedding light on the scale of the issue and the need for action.

Nearly half a billion small tech items thrown away

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Recycling Initiatives

How to recycle electricals

Recycling electrical items is a crucial step in reducing e-waste and conserving valuable resources. Many recycling centers and facilities across the country accept electricals for recycling. When considering recycling your electrical items, it’s essential to follow these steps:

  1. Remove any personal data or sensitive information from the items.
  2. Check with your local recycling facility or council for specific guidelines on how and where to recycle your electrical items.
  3. Some retailers, regardless of whether they sold you the item originally, have a responsibility to help customers dispose of old electrical products. They may offer take-back programs or collection points.
  4. If in doubt, visit the Recycle Your Electricals website for a guide to local recycling facilities and options.

Where to take old electricals

When looking to recycle old electrical items, there are several options available:

  1. Recycling centers: Many recycling centers accept electrical items for recycling. These centers have the necessary equipment and processes to handle electronic waste safely.
  2. Libraries and other drop-off locations: Some libraries and community centers have designated collection points for electrical items. Check with your local facility to see if they accept electronic waste.
  3. Council collections: In some areas, local councils provide scheduled collections of electrical items directly from people’s homes. Contact your council to find out if this service is available in your area.

Retailers’ responsibility

Retailers have a role to play in responsible waste management and recycling. Regardless of whether they originally sold the item, retailers are required to assist customers in disposing of old electrical products. This responsibility reflects the aim of reducing e-waste and ensuring that electronic items are properly recycled or repurposed.

Material Focus’s funding and purpose

Material Focus, the organization behind the research, is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting recycling efforts and reducing electronic waste. The organization’s work is funded by fees paid by electrical producers when they do not meet their government recycling targets. Material Focus’s purpose is to raise awareness, educate the public, and facilitate recycling initiatives to ensure that electrical items are disposed of correctly and sustainably.

Related Topics


Recycling is an essential aspect of waste management and environmental conservation. Proper recycling practices help reduce waste, conserve resources, and minimize the impact on the environment. Increasing awareness and education about recycling is crucial to encourage individuals and communities to adopt sustainable waste management practices.

Waste management

Effective waste management is necessary to address the growing concerns surrounding waste and its impact on the environment. Proper waste management involves the collection, transportation, disposal, and recycling of waste, aiming to minimize adverse environmental effects and promote sustainable practices.

Consumer electronics

Consumer electronics refer to a wide range of electronic devices designed for personal use. These include smartphones, laptops, televisions, cameras, and other household electronic items. The proper disposal and recycling of consumer electronics are crucial to prevent environmental pollution and promote resource conservation.

Disposable vapes

Disposable vapes are a type of electronic cigarette designed for single-use. They are popular among smokers who are looking for a convenient and portable option. However, the rising popularity of disposable vapes has raised concerns about their environmental impact due to their non-recyclable nature. Proper waste management and regulation in the vaping industry are necessary to address this issue.

Nearly half a billion small tech items thrown away

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Additional News on E-Waste

Five million vapes thrown away every week

Research indicates that approximately five million vapes are thrown away every week. This figure highlights the significant amount of waste generated by the vaping industry and emphasizes the urgent need for sustainable waste management practices within the sector.

Five billion phones to be dumped in 2022

It is estimated that around five billion phones will be dumped in 2022. As technology evolves, consumers often replace their phones with newer models, resulting in a considerable amount of electronic waste. Initiatives promoting phone recycling and refurbishment are crucial in reducing e-waste and preserving valuable resources.

UK electrical waste mountain growing

The issue of electrical waste continues to grow in the UK, with a significant amount of improper disposal and lack of recycling. This growing waste mountain poses environmental challenges and underlines the importance of raising awareness, implementing recycling initiatives, and promoting responsible waste management practices.

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Nearly half a billion small tech items thrown away

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