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The Growing Problem of Electronic Waste

29 May 2024

We’re all guilty of getting rid of our old gadgets. Whether that’s old mobile phones, computers, or those broken fairy lights from two Christmases ago. We don’t think much about it; we get something new and the old stuff disappears into the dark corners of our drawers or heads straight to the bin. But this is becoming a huge problem.

The Incredible Amount of Waste We’re Creating

You’ll be surprised to know that the average UK home has around 20 electrical items just gathering dust. The UK is one of the biggest sources of e-waste from homes in the world and every year we discard about 473,000 tonnes of electricals. To put it in perspective, that’s like throwing away over 36,953 London buses each year! And the sad truth is, most of these could have been recycled or given a second chance at life.

What’s FastTech, and Why is it a Problem?

Have you ever bought something techy because it was cheap, and then it broke quickly? That’s FastTech for you – stuff like cheap fairy lights, fans, or those throwaway vapes. Last year, we tossed nearly half a billion of these items, and most of them could have been fixed or recycled. But instead 90% ended up in the bin shortly after we bought them. 

Why Should We Care?

Harmful substances such as those from old cell phones and computers can end up polluting our water, soil, and air, which hurts wildlife and their habitats. When we throw these items away, they can leak dangerous chemicals, especially if they end up in landfills or are exposed to heat, damaging the earth and our atmosphere.

When we consider the financial side of discarding our gadgets, the impact is startling. The UK economy feels a significant pinch from e-waste, with the total cost coming in at an astounding £370 million annually. This hefty sum is the result of valuable resources that are lost forever once electronic devices are thrown away.

Electronics are packed with precious metals and rare components that require a lot of energy and resources to mine and refine. When we discard our devices, we’re not just throwing away the gadget itself, but all the raw materials that could be recovered and reused. Instead of recycling these valuable materials and giving them a second life, the UK is effectively throwing away a trove of potential wealth equal to a small gold mine every year into landfills.

The cost of this waste is not just measured in the value of materials lost but also in the opportunity cost of recycling jobs that are never created and the additional expenses involved in sourcing new materials for new products. By not recovering these materials, manufacturers have to rely more on mining, which further depletes natural resources and can be detrimental to the environment.

So, What Can We Do About It?

There’s a lot we can do, and it starts with small steps.

1. Give It Away

Got something you don’t use anymore? Before you think of throwing it away, see if someone else might want it. There are tons of charities and people in need who could use your old stuff.

2. Repair

Next time your gadget stops working, consider fixing it instead of getting rid of it. Many brands offer repair services, and it’s usually cheaper than buying new ones.

3. Recycle 

Did you know that 75% of the materials in our electronic gadgets can be recycled and turned into something new? That’s right, your old phone could be part of someone’s new device.

Let’s Make a Change Together

The huge £370 million yearly cost of wasted electronics in the UK shows we need to do better in recycling. 

Imagine if each one of us recycled just one gadget this year. That would make a massive difference. So next time you come across an old phone, laptop, or any electrical item, remember, you’ve got the power to turn things around. Let’s be the generation that makes a change, not just for the sake of being eco-friendly, but because it makes sense for our pockets, our homes, and our future.

At Equipment HQ, we take care of unwanted IT gear by recycling them, helping to prevent harm to the environment and making the most out of what would otherwise be waste. If you’re a business looking to handle your electronic waste without hurting the planet, contact us to start managing e-waste smartly.

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