23: Recycle your electrical goods

Simple Things; Recycle electronicsIs your toaster toast? Has your kettle run out of steam?

Do you have any old electricals lying around at home? Do you have a whole drawer filled with old chargers, cables and wires? From irons to iPods, from kettles to cameras, microwaves to mobiles, USB cables to phone chargers: recycle them all!

Environment

According to official Environment Agency data, the UK only recycled a third of the weight of electrical goods that were bought last year. Electrical items contain a range of materials that can be separated and used in new products, for example plastics and metals including gold and copper. All this will save resources and energy. If electrical items end up in landfill, hazardous substances will leak out and cause soil and water contamination – harming plant- and wildlife and even human health.

People

Another reason to start recycling electronic items is the human cost of sourcing the materials needed to make electronics.

coltan; mobile phone; conflict minerals; recycle electronics; gold; tin; copper; tantalum

“[Congo has been] brutalised for 500 years by leaders and nations crazed with greed in a rush for natural resources: rubber, oil, diamonds, copper, uranium, cobalt and coltan. The last of these is used liberally in mobile phones, cameras, printers and laptops.”

The Democratic Republic of Congo famously suffers from a high percentage of sexual violence towards women as part of war tactics used during the conflict. A metal extracted from minerals found in Congo is coltan, used in electronics such as mobile phones.

“The West has a responsibility because it knows how coltan is produced. They can get this without destroying women. […] Westerners should stop buying the devices and buy instead products ‘without blood’.”

Dr Denis Mukwege, Congolese gynaecologist and human rights activist

Recycling our electronics would mean less pressure on countries to meet the enormous demand for its metals, because many of the metals inside our electricals can be used again.

What to do with electronics; recycle; wires; cables; mouse; phone; telephone

Where can I recycle?

AustraliaCanada | France | Hong KongKenyaLondon | NetherlandsSpainUKUSA

Please let us know about recycling electronics where you are!

Remember before you pass on or recycle your items, ensure any personal data is removed. 

Charity and re-use organisations

If your item isn’t broken, there are some alternative ways to recycle your electrical goods.

  • Some charity shops or furniture re-use organisations accept electrical product as donations -many offer collection services.
  • Check to see if your council offers a service for re-use.

Online

  • Places such as Freecycle and Freegle are great ways to pass on items for free.
  • Search online for companies that will exchange old electrical items for money such as  Cash Converters and CeX.
  • Alternatively you can sell them on websites like eBay, Gumtree and Preloved.

Friends, family and local events

  • Ask family and friends if they would like your unwanted electrical items – it could be just what they need!
  • Sell locally at car boot and second hand sales or put an ad in the local news.

Can I recycle this?

If you’re unsure whether an item can be recycled, simply ask the following questions:

  • Does it have a plug?
  • Does it use batteries?
  • Does it need charging?
  • Does it have a picture of a crossed out wheelie bin on it?

If you answer yes to any of these, it can be recycled.

For a detailed list of what you can recycle visit Recycle Now.

Electronics - how they are recycled (RecycleNow)Electronics – how they are recycled from RecycleNow on Vimeo.

 Research and writing – Lucy Bainbridge

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