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

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