4 in 10 Brits have cupboards full of unwanted electrical waste

Energy & Efficiency, Home Appliances, News

New research from BT has revealed that just over four in ten Brits (41%) have cupboards, drawers or bags full of unwanted electrical waste as nearly a third (31%) don’t know how to recycle it.

The news comes as BT reveals it has recycled nearly a million pieces of BT equipment since the start of 2020, preventing nearly 170 tonnes of electrical waste from going to landfill, equivalent to the weight of 13 double-decker buses.

The research found that the most common items Brits don’t know how to recycle are printers (31%), cables (30%) and hair dryers (29%), all of which can be recycled. Nearly three quarters (74%) admit to having chucked electronics into black bin liners, committing the goods to landfill rather than taking them to be recycled.  More than half (55%) engaged in ‘wishful recycling’ – throwing unwanted electronics into the recycling bin in the hope they’ll reach a recycling centre. 

When it comes to good intentions, younger people are getting in a tangle over unwanted electronics, with nearly twice as many 16 to 24 year olds (40%) unsure what to do when it comes to recycling e-waste, compared to those over 55 (21%). The vast majority of 16 to 24 year olds (85%) have thrown electronics in regular bins compared to 51% of those 55 and over. Two thirds (68%) of 16 to 24 year olds have also placed electronics amongst other recycling, compared to 32% of those 55 and over.

 Says Matthew Hughes, Director of Broadband at BT:

 “We made some changes in 2019 that make it compulsory to return broadband routers to us after use, which has really boosted our recycling efforts. Thanks to these changes and the commitment of our customers, we’ve prevented the release of 11,430 tonnes of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of 6,000 flights from London to Tokyo.”

BT estimates hundreds of thousands of items of unused electronic equipment in customers’ homes could be refurbished and recycled. 

The top 10 old electrical items the nation stores unused at home:

  • Cables (44%)
  • Remote controls (41%)
  • Hair dryers (39%)
  • Wired headphones (38%)
  • Printers (35%)
  • Games consoles (32%)
  • Broadband hub (29%)
  • TV set-top boxes (27%)
  • Smart speakers (26%)
  • Wi-Fi extenders (21%)

For general information on how to recycle electrical items; contact your local authority or for details of local Household Waste Recycling Centres where small electrical items can be recycled visit Recycle Now for England




Chris Price
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