Britons Send 17m Gadgets Per Year To Landfills


O2 study finds that one in three UK adults dump devices rather than recycling them, raising environmental concerns

Britons are failing to recycle more than 17 million electronic devices valued at a total of £762 million each year, according to a report from mobile network O2.

One in three adults discard gadgets like MP3 players, mobile phones, satnavs, cameras and games consoles, filling landfills with environmentally hazardous materials found in batteries and screens.

Incentivising recycling

The Independent reports that such gadgets could be recycled for an average of £43.54 at a growing number of centres across the country. Companies including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Boots, Asda and Royal Mail compensate customers through either cash or loyalty points for recycling devices in reasonable condition.

Apple also recently launched its recycling scheme in the UK, offering ‘premium’ prices on old Windows or Apple hardware. The programme, initially available in the US and now expanded across the UK, France and Germany, is operated by German firm Dataserv.

“Electronic equipment in particular is rich with materials which are in high demand but scarce supply. We know many manufacturers are worried about securing stable supplies of these materials at the right price,” said Susanne Baker, senior policy advisor on climate change at the EEF, speaking to The Independent.

International business school INSEAD said last week that better technology recycling could help prevent rare metal shortages. Whilst this is one argument in favour of enhanced recycling initiatives, the more worrying aspect is the threat of environmental damage.

Heavy metals found in these devices, including cadmium, lead and mercury, often break down and create an environmental hazard in landfills and, when illegally exported, can damage the health of people in developing countries.

Though consumer gadgets contain hazardous materials, there is no law in the UK to prevent people dumping them at landfills. The schemes organised by companies like Apple, Tesco and Asda are therefore a step in the right direction as they incentivise recycling devices once an owner is finished with them.

In the US, EcoATM is taking the issue a step further with its automated gadget recycling machine. The company has already showcased the machine at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and has some machines in locations across California, but is preparing a roll out across the country this year.

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