We can all play a part in tackling climate change by recycling. Recycling saves energy, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and allows us to make new products cheaper. It reduces the need for extracting (mining, quarrying and logging), refining and processing raw materials all of which create substantial air and water pollution. It can also use up naturally occurring rare earth materials, which cannot be recreated or replaced.
Around 170 million new electrical items are purchased in the UK each year, but we currently recycle less than a third of these when they come to the end of their lifecycle. The stockpiling of unused gadgets could have a detrimental effect to the supply and manufacturing of new devices. A study has estimated as many as 40 million gadgets are sitting unused and unwanted in UK homes. These items contain valuable and increasingly endangered elements, some of which we could see run out in as little as 100 years.
Gallium, Arsenic, Silver, Indium, Yttrium and Tantalum are just a few of the elements that are becoming increasingly rare but are still in high demand.
- Gallium: Used in LEDs, medical thermometers, solar panels, telescopes and has possible anti-cancer properties;
- Arsenic: Used in fireworks, as a wood preserver;
- Silver: Used in mirrors, antibacterial clothing, reactive lenses that darken in sunlight and gloves for use with touch-screens;
- Indium: Used in microchips, transistors, fire-sprinkler systems, as a coating for ball-bearings in Formula One cars and solar panels;
- Yttrium: Used in white LED lights, camera lenses and can be used to treat some cancers;
- Tantalum: Used in turbine blades, surgical implants, electrodes for neon lights, rocket nozzles and nose caps for supersonic aircraft, hearing aids and pacemakers.
If you have a growing collection of old unused devices such as mobile phones, laptops and tablets that you wish to ethically dispose of then here are a few options for you.
Many retailers now allow customers to trade in their unwanted gadgets in exchange for discount on new purchases.
Websites such as eBay make selling unwanted gadgets easy. Tech-buying websites like Mazuma and MusicMagpie are also a great option as they give you an instant price and usually allow you to post the items for free.
Simply drop your item off at a local charity shop they can then refurbish or recycle the item. There are also Charity’s such as Weee Charity who collect unwanted electrical items which they then reuse, recycle and resell to fund community projects. If you have chosen to sell your item through eBay you are still able to donate the proceeds to charity through the eBay for charity scheme.
Waste electrical items can be collected at council recycling centres or in kerbside collections and are then taken to a reprocessing plant where they are shredded into small pieces. Also some retailers will take your tech to recycle in store.
Protecting your personal data
Before handing over any items make sure you have wiped your data and backed up the files you want to keep. Don’t forget to remove any Sim cards or memory cards. If you can pass on the box, charger and any other accessories that came with the device that would be great too.
In line with Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations Fridge freezers have to be disposed of correctly. You can also recycle whitegoods such as dishwashers, washing machines and cookers. Often retailers will give you the option to recycle an old appliance when you buy a new one, or most councils will collect things like old fridges or washing machines for a fee.