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Brits are hoarding up to 1.68 billion unused tech items, with a third still in the dark on how to recycle it 

Brits are keeping hold of dozens of old technology items even after they’ve stopped working, as one in three (33%) say they don’t know how to recycle them and have never done so before, according to new research.

In line with its participation to the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), OKdo investigated the extent of e-waste production in the UK and found many across the nation are still unaware of how to recycle their old technology safely, despite extensive campaigning by organisations such as the WEEE Forum.

Old chargers, laptops, smartphones and mobiles seem to be the most common tech items Brits are hoarding in their homes, despite not using them anymore.  On average, UK households have 60 old and unused tech items in varying conditions tucked away in drawers, cupboards, attics and basements.

Over two thirds (68%) are keeping hold of at least one old charger, while over half (52%) say they have at least one old laptop stored away. The majority (51%) are also holding onto at least one smartphone, and almost half (47%) have at least one older mobile phone hidden somewhere in the house.

Number of old tech items UK households are hoarding:

  • CDs: 7
  • Smartphones: 6
  • Electronic boards (e.g., Raspberry Pi): 5
  • VR Headset: 5
  • Voice assistant devices (e.g., Alexa): 4
  • Wireless speakers: 4
  • Smartwatches: 4
  • Chargers: 4
  • Digital radios: 4
  • Handheld games consoles: 4
  • Games consoles: 4
  • iPods: 3
  • TVs: 3
  • Blue Ray/DVD Players: 3

The study has revealed there’s still much to be done to raise awareness of the issue of e-waste and its effects on the environment.

According to the Electronic waste and the circular economy publication by the Environmental Audit Committee, each person in the UK produces 23.9 kg of e-waste on average, which is almost a third of the average adult’s body weight (70.8 kg).

Data from the Environment Agency has also revealed that in the first half of 2021 only, the UK produced 148,134.09 tonnes of e-waste, the equivalent weight of 15 Eiffel Towers. In the period covering 2010-2020 the UK produced 3,865,439.761 tonnes of e-waste, enough to build two-thirds of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

With one in ten of those surveyed by OKdo saying none of the old tech they are keeping at home is in working condition, and a third (33%) saying up to half isn’t usable, it appears the UK’s pile of e-waste could keep growing and growing.

Baby Boomers (aged 45-54) are the least comfortable when it comes to knowledge around recycling old tech: 38% within this age group don’t know how to and have never done it before. This is also true for older generations: 37% within the 55-64 age group feel the same way, as well as 36% of those over 65 years old.

Millennials are the most in-the-know, with three in ten (31%) saying they’re confident about their knowledge on the matter and have recycled their old tech several times.

Richard Curtin, SVP of Technology at OKdo commented on the findings:“Our research has shown there’s still much to be done about raising awareness on the environmental impact of e-waste across the nation. As a business, and as part of the wider Electrocomponents group, we are committed to making responsible choices whilst supporting rapid development. It’s our priority to make sure our customers can trust us to be conscious about our impact, and take tangible steps to reduce it.

“The data suggests a third of UK adults don’t seem to know much about ways to recycle their old tech items, and across the board people are keeping hold of unused objects instead of disposing of them correctly.

“Here at OKdo, we are taking steps to promote electronic waste recycling and reduce our environmental impact. One of our initiatives is our Raspberry Pi recycling scheme, OKdo Renew, in partnership with Raspberry PI and the Sony Technology centre. By offering this service, which provides a £10 voucher for every recycled working Raspberry Pi board, we’re hoping to encourage the public to think of ways technology can impact the environment and give them incentives to recycle and give their old tech a new life.
For each one we renew, we will also be making a donation to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, that works to put the power of computing into the hands of young people all over the world, and encourages to express themselves creatively.”

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