Reforms to improve electrical reuse and recycling

The Government has announced reforms intended to make it easer for people and businesses to reuse and recycle their old electrical goods.

Statistics have shown that an estimated 155,000 tonnes of smaller household electricals such as cables, toasters, kettles and power tools are wrongly thrown in the bin each year and UK homes are thought to hoard a further 527 million unwanted electrical items containing valuable materials such as gold, silver and platinum.

On top of this, 500 tonnes of Christmas lights are discarded every year in the UK.

A range of measures have been proposed within the joint UK Government, Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive consultation for introduction from 2026, including UK-wide collections of waste electricals directly from households – saving the public from having to trek to distant electrical disposal points. The collections would be financed by producers of electrical items, not the taxpayer, and not necessarily require any further bins.

Large retailers could roll out collection drop points for electrical items in-store, free of charge, without the need to buy a replacement product and retailers and online sellers would take on responsibility for collecting unwanted or broken large electrical items such as fridges or cookers when delivering a replacement.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is set to work closely with manufacturers, major retailers and small and medium enterprises throughout the consultation period to ensure the most efficient and accessible options become a reality.  

Recycling minister Robbie Moore said: "Every year millions of household electricals across the UK end up in the bin rather than being correctly recycled or reused. This is a sheer waste of our natural resources and has to stop.  

"We all have a drawer of old tech somewhere that we don’t know what to do with and our proposals will ensure these gadgets are easy to dispose of without the need for a trip to your local tip. Our plans will also drive the move to a more circular economy and create new jobs by making all recycling simpler."

Jacob Hayler, Executive Director of the Environmental Services Association, said: "Far too many electronic devices currently end up in the bin, so making it simpler and more convenient for householders to recycle waste electricals at home will undoubtedly play a key role in helping our sector return the valuable and rare materials in these devices back to the circular economy.  

"On behalf of those operating recycling centres and kerbside collection services, we welcome the opportunity to contribute through consultation and help create an effective system that delivers on its intended outcomes and works, not just for householders, but for obligated producers and retailers too.

"Waste electricals and particularly vapes increasingly contain powerful batteries and are now responsible for hundreds of serious fires every year when not recycled responsibly, so we hope that offering convenient and widespread household collection services for these devices will also help reverse the growing trend of battery fires blighting the sector."


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