Nearly half a billion small electricals thrown away in last year – study

12 October 2023, 12:14

A pair of earbuds
Half a billion electrical items thrown away. Picture: PA

Research from Material Focus warned that ‘fast tech’ was becoming as big an issue as fast fashion.

Nearly half a billion small electrical items, such as headphones, cables and disposable vapes, were thrown away last year, research shows.

The study from Material Focus warned that “fast tech” items could become an issue that outstrips so-called fast fashion.

Its research found that last year, more than half a billion fast tech items were purchased, with about 90% of those (471 million) quickly being thrown away.

The group said it included 260 million disposable vapes, 26 million cables, 29 million LED, solar and decorative lights and 9.8 million USB sticks – all of which ended up in landfill.

Ahead of International E-Waste Day on Saturday, Material Focus said it wanted to remind consumers that anything with a plug, battery or cable can be recycled.

Scott Butler, executive director of Material Focus, said: “Fast tech is seriously rivalling fast fashion, and is causing similar headaches.

“People should think carefully about buying some of the more frivolous fast tech items in the first place.

“But as fast tech items are quite cheap and small, people may not realise that they contain valuable materials and will just pop them in the bin, meaning we lose everything inside them instead of recycling them into something new.

“We want to get the message across that anything with a plug, battery or cable can be recycled and there’s somewhere near you to do it.

“The scale of the issue is huge, but there’s an easy solution – just as the trend for recycling and repurposing fashion has grown and grown, we want to encourage the nation to recycle fast tech, guilt and fuss-free.”

The group said the falling price of smaller electrical items was a contributing factor in the rise of fast tech waste, but warned that the issue was only a part of a wider problem around electrical waste in the UK.

According to Material Focus research, there are 880 million unused electricals in UK homes currently, an increase of 67% over the last three years, with the average household now having 30 items it does not use.

By Press Association

More Technology News

See more More Technology News

Cyber attack at major London hospitals

Hundreds of operations and appointments cancelled in week after NHS cyber attack

Labour said it would also ban the creation of sexually explicit deepfakes (PA)

Labour commits to introducing AI regulation for tech giants

Daniel Bedingfield

Pop star Daniel Bedingfield praises AI for capturing ‘soul’ of his music

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX (PA)

Elon Musk says Tesla shareholders will vote to approve pay deal

Person wearing an Apple watch on their left wrist

Smart watches could help track Parkinson’s disease progression – study

A person's forefinger poised on the keyboard of a laptop computer

Gaming giant Steam facing £656m legal claim for ‘overcharging’ UK gamers

A group of schoolchildren standing around

Most children cannot name MP and fifth get political news from TikTok – survey

A person using a keyboard to sign into the X website on a laptop

Elon Musk confirms X will start hiding likes on posts

A technician working at Currys' Repair Centre in Newark, Nottinghamshire

Currys working to improve consumer trust in refurbished and repaired tech

Raspberry Pi 4 micro computer launch

Raspberry Pi shares jump 40% after London IPO

Apple WWDC event

Apple unveils generative AI assistant for iPhone, iPad and Mac at conference

ChatGPT on a MacBook

Apple keen on more deals with AI chatbots after link-up with ChatGPT

Elon Musk during an ‘in-conversation’ event

Elon Musk says he could ban Apple devices at his companies over OpenAI deal

Apple Intelligence writing tools

Apple Intelligence is ‘promising first step’ for firm’s AI tools, experts say


Genetics testing company 23andMe facing investigation over data breach

Apple Intelligence

Apple Intelligence: Tech giant unveils its new flagship generative AI tools