Why, by not recycling your old gadgets, is contributing to global warming

Thanks to the efforts of people such as David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg, we're all much more aware of the impact of climate change. Therefore many of us have adapted our lifestyles to reduce our impact. 

For example, separating our household waste into separate bins, taking reusable shopping bags to the supermarket, and investing in reusable coffee cups and water bottles. 

However, these efforts could potentially be outweighed by our collective electrical buying habits, and our inability to recycle gadgets we no longer have use for. 

New research has found that around 500,000 tonnes of electrical items were lost, binned, hoarded, or stolen in the UK last year alone. As well as costing the economy more than £370 million in lost raw materials and metals – money which would be extremely useful given the economic cost of the coronavirus pandemic – this waste has a severe impact on global warming.

Not-for-profit group 'Material Focus' estimates that electrical waste generates 2.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year. That’s the same climate impact as around 1.3 million cars driving on the roads. They estimate that just 915,000 tonnes of old electronics and electrical equipment - including phones, laptops, TVs, and radios - were sent for reuse and recycling last year in the UK.

Humans tend to be quite good at recycling larger items such as fridges, freezers, and vacuums. Whether we ask the company delivering the replacement to remove the old items, arrange for the council to collect it, or take it to the nearest tip. But, it's smaller items that many of us throw into the rubbish so that they end up in landfills or hidden away at the back of cupboards because we’re not sure how to recycle them correctly.

As well as having an impact on global warming, it’s a waste of resources. If the 31 million laptops lying idle in UK homes were recycled they could provide enough aluminium to produce 159,000 bikes; enough steel to make 12,000 playground swings or enough plastic to make nearly 5 million life-saving defibrillators.

Recycle Your Gadgets to Help the Environment – and your wallet!

Recycling doesn’t mean that items have to go to the small electricals skip at your council tip. First, consider if you can actually get some money for your old phone, laptop, tablet, etc.  This is simply a matter of sending it to a company that will either refurbish and resell it or remove the useful materials for reuse before disposing of the rest in an environmentally friendly way.

You can get a quote online in a couple of minutes and find out exactly what your old gadget is worth. You can even sell the digital camera you no longer use because you take all your photos on your smartphone now. And there’s a growing opportunity to sell Smartwatches, while gaming consoles and tablets are always in demand.

We can all make a difference by stopping to think before we throw out our old electricals. Think about selling them wherever possible – take a look at our FAQs to find out how the process works. And for those small household items that can’t be resold in this way, use the postcode finder on recycleyourelectricals.org.uk to look for the nearest recycling point. These will take everything from personal grooming appliances to electrical and power tools.