UK households sitting on 22 million unused broadband routers


Households across the UK are sitting on more than 22 million unused broadband routers — enough to fill ten Olympic swimming  pools — which are going to waste instead of being recycled, according to new research from, the comparison and switching service.

The research, released on the eve of Global Recycling Day, shows that two-fifths of households (42%) currently have an unused router in their home, while one in seven homes (14%) have two or more collecting dust. 

With the overwhelming majority of consumers (87%) receiving their router from a broadband provider when they sign up for a new deal, whether they need it or not, more than three quarters (76%) say they would prefer to be given a universal router — that will still work even if they change broadband provider — to cut down on e-waste.

More than one million tonnes of electrical waste are generated by UK households and businesses each year, estimates e-waste research organisation Material Focus. 

The research points to a lack of awareness among broadband customers about how to recycle a router, with three in five (59%) saying they don’t know how to do so. Meanwhile, one in seven Brits (15%) say their provider has sent them a brand new router, despite them already having a working device in their home.

In all, 60% of customers believe providers should be doing more to help the environment when it comes to recycling old tech. Sky has been voted by consumers to be the worst offender when it comes to informing customers about how to recycle their router. 

In light of this volume of e-waste, is calling on broadband providers to make it easier for customers to recycle their unused routers, and to offer a service that enables new or departing customers to return old routers.

Nick Baker, broadband expert at, comments:

“We can all be guilty of holding onto tech for longer than we need, but the volume of e-waste is now a serious problem and with more than 22 million routers collecting dust in our homes. Action must be taken.

“Broadband providers are currently under no obligation to help their customers recycle unused routers, but with the majority of routers coming from the providers in the first place, they need to step up and play a bigger role in tackling this issue. 

“Well over half of people don’t know how to recycle an old router, pointing to a lack of awareness among the public. Providers must bridge this gap and ensure their customers have all the information they need to dispose of old routers in an environmentally friendly way.”   

  • Sky

    • Equipment received after 4 March 2020 is technically on loan to you from Sky, so will need to be returned once your service has ended.

    • Typically, you have 60 days to return your equipment or face a fee.

    • Returning the devices to Sky is the best way to ensure parts are reused and recycled.

  • BT

    • Similar to Sky, you’ll need to return your equipment if you’ve taken a contract on or after 13 December 2019. If items are not returned within 60 days, a charge is applied.

    • You should receive a white return bag from BT when you  cancel your service. You simply need to attach your returns label and drop off your parcel at your nearest Post Office.

  • Virgin Media

    • For newer devices, Virgin Media will also reuse or recycle its equipment. For these, they will send a pre-paid envelope for its return.

    • You can visit the Virgin Media ‘Recycling my kit’ page to see the closest recycling centres for equipment they do not require to be returned. 

  • Plusnet

    • Plusnet is part of the WEEE scheme (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment), and as such is obligated to dispose of products and equipment in “the best, earth-friendly way.”

    • For this you’ll need to cover the postage yourself and send your old Plusnet router to the following address: WEEE Take Back Scheme Plusnet Returns BT DF Darlington Road Northallerton DL6 7ZY.

  • TalkTalk

    • TalkTalk offers Royal Mail returns for customers to send back their old equipment. 

    • If you leave TalkTalk and you don’t return your TalkTalk equipment within 42 days of receiving your postage bag, you could be charged £50.00 for the equipment you’ve kept.

    • TalkTalk also states that you can send equipment that wasn’t originally supplied by them and they’ll recycle that for you for free as well as their own.

Find out more about how to recycle your broadband router here.

Chris Price
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