The electronics that we hoard in our homes have an expiration date. Eventually, even sooner than you think and in the global pile of e-waste. According to the Royal Society of Chemistry, over 40 million unused gadgets are in our homes. At the same time, around 45% of households have up to five unused electronic devices. Each of these devices contains multiple invaluable and highly endangered elements.
Ever since the advancements in technology and the rapid exposure of the general population to electrical devices, the amount of e-waste has increased incalculably. Indeed, it contributes to climate change and creates a hazardous environment for humans. All these abandoned electronics throng the landfills, toxic metals and plastic secreting toxic that can leech into the soil, water or pollute the air when burned.
Meanwhile, in 2021, only 2% of UK adults repaired or fixed their electrical, while a third recycled their unwanted electrical. Over 155,000 tonnes of unwanted electrical are being thrown away every year by UK households, whereas 527 million items are hoarded in UK homes.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t get rid of these old electricals. It’s a task that should be handled properly. Recycling might not be the complete or perfect answer to what to do with e-waste, but it’s often the best solution at our disposal. And to achieve that goal, we’ve compiled a guide for you to recycle your old or altogether dead electronics in the best way possible.
What happens when electricals aren’t recycled?
You might never deem it necessary to recycle the electrical items instead of throwing them in the bin. But you should consider that the electricals you discard produce e-waste and become a significant threat to the earth’s ecosystem and negatively impact human health.
More than 30 precious and rare elements in most of our electricals, such as gold, platinum, silver, palladium, and indium. The metal indium, for example, is unique and a vital component for making touch screens or solar panels. But when we throw away the electricals, they end up lining in landfills, and we lose the valuable metals forever. The non-recycling of these essential resources costs the UK economy a massive sum of £370 million.
It doesn’t end with an impact on the economy in the form of the precious resources we lose. These elements release toxic waste damaging the environment. These precious metals never lose their properties and can be reused again and again without losing their value. However, if we lose these materials to landfills, we must dig more raw materials to get these metals from the ground. That, in turn, harms the environment in almost every way possible.
Not recycling these ore’s is another factor boosting the climate change effects. The extraction of new metals and new electricals produces a significant carbon emission. To the extent that we can save 2.8 million tonnes of CO2 emissions if we go the route to recycle our electricals instead of binning or stockpiling them. The emission we can prevent is equivalent to 1.3 million cars being taken off-road.
Similarly, a significant financial value is hidden that is unused when the electricals are thrown away or stashed in a drawer. Almost all the new electricals and tech gadgets can be passed on or even resold for as much as £620 per household.
What are the benefits of recycling?
There are many adverse effects of sending old and unused electrical to waste. And to find out the benefits of recycling your electricals, dive deeper with us. Why you should support and prefer recycling over hoarding or throwing away. A couple of advantages of recycling your dated tech include:
- A much cleaner environment – recycling eliminates the extraction of new material and the creation of new products.
- You get more for less – utilising the precious metals in the old electricals is comparatively easy. It can be turned into anything, including bicycles, life-saving equipment, or equipment.
- Extra cash – around the UK, residents hoard £17 billion worth of old electricals that can be used for a better purpose by giving them away or reselling them. Think of the more cash you’ll get and the extra shelf space.
- More jobs created – recycling old electricals will automatically create hundreds of new jobs in the recycling industry.
Things to do before recycling or donating your old tech
Backup and Delete Your Data
Whether the device – a phone, tablet, laptop, game console, or any modern electronic device – you should ensure your data is removed from it. It is not only a privacy issue but also a security concern: even with seemingly harmless data like your name and phone number, an identity thief can initiate selective harvesting.
Fortunately, all modern electric devices include an option to reset the machine, deleting all your data and any stored files and programs. It takes a few minutes, but it is reliable and very simple.
But before you wipe your device, back up all critical data on a phone or tablet since most of them are already synced with your Apple, Google, or Amazon account. You’ll want to make sure photos, videos, music, and text messages are saved. Computers can be more complicated because you’ll want to get a lot, if not all, of the data from the storage drive.
Collect or destroy parts before donating
When you’re ready to dispose of or give away your device, be sure to remove any physical parts that stick out of it. For phones, this means SIM cards and MicroSD cards. On laptops and desktops, that means CDs, DVDs, camera cards, and anything plugged into your USB ports. Look for game discs, game cartridges, and storage cards in-game consoles.
Computers have an even safer option where you can remove the storage drive. Removing the hard drive or SSD or destroying them reduces the risk of someone recovering data from it.
You may also use other removable parts in a computer, especially graphics cards on gaming desktops. But if you are sending the computer to a new user, whether to donate it or give it to a friend, make sure you give it to them in a condition that they will find helpful.
Sell old electricals
You can get some extra cash flow by selling your old tech; as we mentioned before, on average, each household in the UK. So, selling them can bring at least that much cash.
To get the most value for your dilapidated tech, check out the peer-to-peer marketplaces like Gumtree and eBay. Some retailers even offer trade-in schemes to replace your old products with new ones under some conditions.
If you love your piece of tech or have some memories associated with it, getting it repaired can be a great option. You can find authentic repair cafes across the UK, where you can have your gadgets refurbished or repaired professionally.
Every modern tech gadget with a plug, battery, and cable can be recycled. That includes smartphones, laptops, toasters, and even electric toothbrushes. Therefore, if you have an old tech that’s no longer working, it can be recycled.
Use the Recycling Locator from the Recycle Your Electrical’s website to find the nearby local recycling centre. All you have to provide is your postcode, and the site has a database of over 3,000 points across the UK.
How can you recycle old technology?
Almost 75% of all the materials in your unused or unwanted electricals can be recycled into something useful and new. That way, we can reduce the effort required to extract the materials from the earth and prevent more emissions of CO2 and unwanted environmental consequences.
According to the Electrical Waste Recycling Group data, more than 500,000 tons of electronic waste are recycled each year in the UK. However, a small fraction of the “e-waste” that’s heaping up in landfills and homes.
If your gadgets are no longer useful and are damaged somehow, it might be time to consider responsibly recycling them. Many old products, including flip phones, cameras, game players, mp3 players, etc., shouldn’t go in the trash. Instead, your recycling quest should start with the following options:
- Local programs
You can find a lot of information from the local governments offering where and how you should dispose of your electricals to be recycled. You can find a nearby recycling point on Recycle Your Electrical website.
- Big-box stores trade-ins
Some of the big stores where you usually purchase your tech will take the devices when they’re old or no longer usable. For example, Best Buy’s and Staples’ recycling program lets you bring your ageing tech to be responsibly recycled. The company will send the recyclable material to a third-party recycling partner, effectively checking before breaking it down.
- Tech companies
Some big companies like Apple and Dell accept their products for recycling. For example, the Apple Trade-In program gives you a credit that can be applied to purchase new products. Dell accepts old devices of any brand to be recycled.
Recycling old and dilapidated tech gadgets can be significantly beneficial for society in the long run. At the same time, it can prevent humans from extracting more metals to make more devices and lay waste to the world’s resources. With extraction comes emission with a significant impact on environmental degradation. All in all, recycling can benefit humanity in decluttering their spaces and saving our beautiful earth while creating new jobs and opportunities for us with a more humane approach.
As a Senior Editor at Talk Home, David leads a team of brilliant writers and editors. He also loves to travel and listen to frequent music in his free time.