Which? investigation reveals where your electrical recycling goesGPS trackers used to follow six TV's journeys

18 January 2013

When Which? took six TVs for recycling at local recycling centres and high street shops, one ended up more than 11,000 miles away – while another’s journey to Southampton docks couldn’t be explained.

To find out where our electrical recycling goes Which? put GPS trackers into six TVs, took them to Comet, Currys and recycling centres and tracked where they went.

One TV we recycled at a Croydon recycling centre went to China by boat, stopping off at Greece and Sri Lanka on route. Another we took to a Lambeth (London) recycling centre and it went to Kent to be dismantled. The tracker didn’t survive this process. However, the council said parts would have gone to Belgium, China, Germany, South Korea, Sweden and the UK.

Electrical recycling - were the TVs all recycled?

A TV (or part of it) that we took to Currys, ended up at Southampton docks. After an investigation, Currys could not explain our television’s destination and so it appears that all or part of it may not have been recycled at all.

Currys said that it believed that this was a one-off that it was investigating internally, saying that its approach to recycling is ‘…in full accordance with government processes, uses approved processors and is regularly monitored by the relevant authorities.’

Recycling electricals - what do you do?

When we asked people what they actually do with their old appliances, it transpired that many aren’t actually taken to be recycled – especially smaller appliances. For more advice see our top tips about how to reuse and recycle electricals.

In our survey of more than 2,000 members of the UK public, only 36% of people said they took their old appliances to be recycled. A fifth of people hadn’t done anything with their old or broken items, and 14% admitted to putting them in the bin. The rest were sold, given away or lost. 

Smaller items were more likely to thrown into the general rubbish, with around 30% of kettles, toasters and irons meeting this fate.

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