UK households holding unto 880 million unused electrical items, claims Material Focus


  • Material Focus launches its Electrical Waste: Challenges and Opportunities research to highlight value hidden inside our electricals 
  • UK households are holding onto 880 million unused electrical items and throwing away 103,000 tonnes of electricals, costing the economy £488 million in raw materials
  • 343,000 tonnes of electricals are being lost through being stolen or illegally exported – £439 million in lost valuable raw materials
  • 7.98 million tonnes of CO2 could also be saved, equivalent to 3.84 million cars being taken off the road 

New research from Material Focus has identified that as the demand for electrical items soars among consumers, more of these items are either being held onto in UK homes, thrown away, illegally exported or stolen.

The research, “Electrical Waste: Challenges and Opportunities” found that the materials contained inside these “lost electricals” are worth £927 million which could, if recycled, make a significant contribution to the UK economy.  

Using updated United Nations (Unitar) research the report identifies a steep rise in illegal waste exports (an increasing global issue), which is now at 187,000 tonnes, and the rise in theft (linked to rising metal prices over the last three years) which is now at 156,000 tonnes. Together, these would be worth £439 million to the UK economy if recycled in the UK. 

The report, which is an update on research that was first published in 2021, uses publicly available waste data flow to identify how the different UK regions contribute to the total UK waste electricals collected and recycled from local authorities. 

  • South East – 13,700 tonnes
  • London – 12,400 tonnes
  • North West – 11,400 tonnes
  • Wales  – 10,900 tonnes
  • East of England – 9,500 tonnes
  • Scotland – 9,100 tonnes
  • South West – 8,800 tonnes
  • West Midlands – 8,800 tonnes
  • Yorkshire & The Humber – 8,400 tonnes
  • North East – 4,200 tonnes
  • East Midlands – 7,400 tonnes
  • Northern Ireland – 2,800 tonnes

Says Scott Butler, Executive Director, Material Focus:

“We seem to be venturing into an era of hyper-tech-buying. The amount of electricals that we buy and use has soared in recent years whether it’s the latest kitchen fad such as an air fryer, to fitness tech and fast tech –  cheap small electricals such as mini-fans, charging cables, vapes, earphones and ear-buds.

“When electricals break or become unwanted too many of them end up being thrown away or are held onto unused. This is a significant missed opportunity. With the value of the materials that are inside our electricals increasing by up to 180% over the last 4 years it has never been more important to not lose that value.

HypnoCat and our Recycle Your Electricals campaign are getting the nation aware of the importance of this issue, and together we can make some big positive change through individual small actions. We can make it easier for more people to reuse and recycle their old and unwanted electricals by offering easily accessible household and retailer collections.”

To find your nearest recycling point, search up Recycle Your Electricals and enter your postcode.

Chris Price
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