An estimated two million tonnes of electronics are discarded in the UK every year, so it's important we deal with e-waste correctly in a way that benefits the environment.
Thankfully, there are plenty of schemes around that aim to reduce the negative impact of e-waste. Whatever electrical product you're parting with, there's a good chance you'll be able to donate it, sell it on, or drop it off so it can be recycled and turned into something new.
Below, we run through the various ways you can recycle your unwanted electrical items. Plus, we have details on how to prepare your phone, tablet or PC if you're donating them.
Small electrical items that are broken (and can't be reused) are classed as WEEE – waste electrical and electronic equipment. WEEE covers a wide range of products, with the full list including small appliances such as kettles and toasters, plus bigger items including lawn mowers and vacuum cleaners.
In simple terms, you can think of WEEE waste as most products that feature a plug or require a battery. The material composition of WEEE waste varies, so it's good to know exactly what you can and can't recycle.
According to RecycleNow, the government-funded national recycling campaign, waste electrical products collected at recycling centres are taken to processing plants where they are shredded into smaller pieces and separated into ferrous metals, non-ferrous metals and plastics.
Any electrical item that has a crossed-out wheelie bin symbol (shown below) can be recycled. Look out for this symbol when you're deciding what to do with your clutter. If you know your item can be recycled but it's still in working condition, you might choose to donate it instead.
Don't place your old electronic devices directly into a bin to be sent to landfill. Doing so means that the products may leak hazardous chemicals, contributing to water and air pollution.
When dealing with light bulbs, note that fluorescent lamps can be dealt with at a local recycling centre. However, older-style incandescent bulbs aren't recyclable and can be thrown away in your rubbish bin.
Dead batteries don't belong in your bin – recycle them instead. Some councils will collect batteries as part of their own collection service, but if not, you can drop them off at a recycling centre.
Smaller batteries like those found inside a watch are recyclable, as are bulkier battery packs that power laptops and mobile phones.
Anything with a plug, battery or cable can be recycled, as well as a charging cable on its own. Cables can be valuable as they often contain copper and aluminum, which can be turned into new products. The plastic coating can also be reused.
If you've got a home office drawer packed with leads you don't use, consider bundling them together and dropping them at a recycling centre.
Some local authorities offer kerbside collection for small electrical items, so check in with your local council to see if this is the case where you live.
In many cases, the council will collect small household electricals such as toasters, torches and kettles, alongside household batteries. These small items need to be put in a carrier bag and placed next to your waste or recycling bin on collection day.
If your local council isn't able to collect small electricals directly from your home, you can visit a recycling centre – there are thousands of them across the UK. Before you make the trip, check if you need to book a slot or take proof of address.
Many retailers offer a paid-for pick-up scheme, where your old product is collected at the same time a new one is delivered, or a free drop-off scheme.
Retailers that manage their own recycling systems include:
If you have tech products sat around gathering dust, note that you could make a tidy sum if you decide to sell them. In fact, our own pricing research shows you could receive as much as £450 for an Apple iPhone 12 (64GB) in working condition.
But a word of warning – if you're parting with an old phone, tablet or computer, it's important you remove your personal information from the product first. If you forget to do this (or do it incorrectly), your data could be visible to the next person that uses the device. In other words, someone else will have access to your pictures, videos, word documents and online accounts.
Once you've transferred over all the files you want to keep, perform a factory reset – this option can be found in the settings menu. Alternatively, try running a search on your device for 'factory reset.' If you're dealing with a phone, remember to remove the SIM card as well.
You can sell your devices using websites including CeX, Laptops Direct, Mazuma Mobile and musicMagpie. Music Magpie claims that it refurbishes 95% of the products it receives from consumers, all of which are resold in the UK.
Rather than sell your unused electronics, you can offer them to a local charity shop. Obviously, you'll want to ensure the products still work before you hand them over.
There are plenty of charity shops out there willing to take electricals of all shapes and sizes. The British Heart Foundation will take larger items such as TVs, washing machines and fridges. The Salvation Army accepts electrical items at its larger shops and donation centres. It has two specialist charity furniture shops in the UK (Luton and Glasgow) as well as 13 donation centres.
If you're trying to hand over a particularly large item, your local district council should offer help in the form of a bulky waste collection service. This service will usually cover large appliances such as washing machines and fridges.
You should expect to pay a small fee to have your items removed from your home via bulky waste collection. For example, the notes there is a £35 charge for 'up to three items or ten standard bags.' It adds that 'collections made from specific ground-floor collection points on city estates are free of charge.'
In total, there are 7 different types of plastic typically used around your home. Some of them are a breeze to deal with – all you need to do is pop them in your recycling bin and wait for collection day. Others are trickier, however, meaning you'll need to take those items to specialist drop-off points.