E-waste or electrical waste refers to any discarded electrical or electronic devices from phones and laptops to fridges and lawnmowers. It is, in fact, the fastest growing waste stream in the world, with discarded or hoarded household electricals estimated to cost the UK economy over £370 million per year!
The devastation caused by single-use plastic waste is well known but what many people do not realise is that the growing problem of e-waste can be just as catastrophic and have devasting consequences to our environment. When this waste is disposed of improperly, the heavy metals, plastics and glass can pollute the air or seep into waterways.
Research by Material Focus, owners of the Recycle Your Electricals campaign, found that a total of 1.65 million tonnes of electricals were sold (put on the market) in the UK every year. 1.45 million tonnes of these electricals could actually be reused or recycled! However, 500,000 tonnes of waste electricals were lost through being thrown away, hoarded, stolen instead.
So, how can we make sure this waste is being disposed of in a way that doesn’t continue to affect our environment? For this International E-waste Day, we’ve put some ways to help us all understand, educate and take action against e-waste so we can all #BeTheChange!
What is International E-waste Day?
Developed in 2018, International E-Waste Day was established by the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Forum with the support of its members. It was created to help raise awareness of e-waste and encourage people to reduce, reuse and recycle.
This year, the theme is education. WEEE and its partners are aiming to raise as much awareness as possible in order to tackle the growing problem of e-waste. The focus is also on educating young people and bringing up a new generation of responsible consumers to help protect the future of our world.
What can we do about it?
Refrain from buying new electronics
New gadgets full of the latest tech are always being released and can be super tempting! But, before you buy the new phone with better camera pixels or the fridge that listens to your voice, ask yourself, do I really need this? If the answer is no, consider keeping it for a little longer. Maybe you can update it or spruce it up a little instead.If your appliance or gadget is broken, needs replacing or you really do need another one, well, read on for what you can do…
Fix it yourself!
Before you replace your broken electricals, why not consider fixing them first! It may seem like a daunting thought, but there is so much help out there that makes it super easy to do!
eSpares is your household appliance fixing guru! With over a million spare parts in stock and over 500 how-to videos on YouTube, you really have no excuse not to give it a try! If your fridge, oven, washing machine, tumble dryer, cooker hood or smaller appliances have developed a fault or aren’t working as they should, eSpares gives you everything you need to diagnose, fix and maintain them yourself with their handy online advice centre.
The Restart Project is an organisation that also helps people learn how to repair their broken electronics. They have set up ‘Repair Parties’ all around the UK and Europe that give people the tools and knowledge to repair gadgets such as laptops, phones, headphones, kettles and toasters! They call them parties because they are fun ways for like-minded individuals to get together and share their knowledge and skills. In the current climate, these parties have been moved online but are still just as helpful! Here’s how to find one near you.
Benefits of fixing it yourself
“Dishwasher broken down, repairman says to get a new one as it would cost nearly as much to repair as getting a new one. So, I looked up the part on eSpares, purchased it for £45. So it really saved me around £150-£200. Also, watched the video on the website which helped me with the repair!” Martin, eSpares customer.
Saving the environment
“Having found and used the eSpares website has been a godsend to fix my units that are far from ready to be scraped. Saves unnecessary personal expenditure and the environment for dumping unnecessary waste. Suits me.” Sheena, eSpares customer.
“3rd time I have used eSpares. Buy product, watch video, change the part, enjoy the hero worship. This is made so easy. Highly recommend.” Brian, eSpares customer.
Give it to a good home
If your electrical item is working fine and still in a decent condition but you’ve decided you want a new one, you could do a good deed and donate it to charity. Causes such as The British Heart Foundation and British Red Cross welcome donations of electrical items to sell in their home stores and help those in need. Reuse Network is also a great way to give away your unwanted electricals. They can direct you to places you can donate your items near you and ensure they are going to a good home.
Make some extra cash!
Another way to get rid of your electrical items but prevent them from going to landfill is to sell them! Ask family members or friends if they or know anyone who is in need of one. Sell it on platforms such as Facebook shopping or eBay. You never know who might need it and you can make yourself some money too!
Release your inner creativity and give upcycling a go! You can give broken appliances or electricals a new lease of life and create something totally unique!
Turn your broken washing machine drum into a snazzy foot stool!
Or keep it simple and turn your old coffee machine pot into a funky planter pot to jazz up your home decor!
Take a look at some other fantastic upcycling ideas from this creative lot to give you some inspo!
If you can’t fix it, donate it or upcycle it, then make sure you recycle it! Many people believe that electricals can’t be recycled. Wrong! The majority of electrical items can absolutely be recycled. You just need to know what, where and how!
Things you didn’t know you could recycle:
Smart devices and IT
Phones, laptops, tablets, cables, mobiles, wearable tech devices, smartwatches and more.
Anything with a plug, battery or cable can be recycled. So from your fridge to your kettle!
Valuable materials can be recovered from old batteries – so make sure you’re recycling yours.
Personal grooming tools
Old hairdryers, straighteners, electric shavers, hair clippers, curlers and electric toothbrushes are all recyclable.
Entertainment, toys and leisure
Recycle your old gadgets and entertainment such as headphones, TV remotes, radios, video players, speakers and more.
Power tools, gardening and DIY
All kinds of DIY equipment can be recycled from lawnmowers and strimmers to drills and sewing machines.
Find a recycling centre near you
Recycle Your Electricals can help you find recycling centres close to you. Simply enter your postcode and follow the instructions. You could even contact the centre to see if they can help you get it there.
Apply for collection from the council
Your local council will collect your unwanted large appliances for a small fee. Search for your local council by entering your postcode and find out how you can do this.
When you order a new appliance from a store like Currys or Argos, they will usually give you the option for them to take your old one away and recycle it. Currys also offer a free recycling service. Bring your old appliance their stores and they will do the rest!
Give it to the scrap merchant
Find your local scrap merchants who will recycle the metal parts of appliances and process them into new products. Unfortunately, the don’t take fridges or freezers as they require special disposal due to the coolants.
Here is what you need to know before you recycle:
- Back up any files you want to keep from phones and laptops.
- Remove all data from your devices. Here is some information on how to do this.
- Remove any sims or SD card from your devices.
- Remove batteries from electricals and recycle these separately.
Join the movement
Share your stories
Fixed, donated or recycled something and feel great about it? Share it and encourage others too.
Share your skills
Use what you’ve learnt to help friends and family with their unwanted or broken electricals.
Become an expert
Knowledge is power! Read up on e-waste and the ways to help then share your knowledge with others.
Help create a new generation of responsible consumers
The future of our world really does lie in the hands of the next generation. Here are a few ways we can help educate young people and encourage them to join the fight against e-waste.
Teach them to fix
Teaching fixing skills from a young age will really help youngsters to understand the value of items. If it’s broken, fix it!
Talk to them about e-waste
Honesty is the best policy so tell them the truth about what is happening to the world and show them what we can do about it.
Take them to a recycling centre
Let them see it first hand and ask questions about where it’s going and what will happen to it.
Give them values as well as things
Of course, young people love gadgets and they won’t be giving them up any time soon! What we can do though, is to make sure they are disposing of their old items properly, responsibly and even making money from them too!
A small gesture really does go a long way when it comes to protecting our planet from future harm. So, let’s all get involved and join the fight against e-waste in our own ways and together, we can help save the future of our world!