How to recycle electronics: a guide to sustainable electronic waste disposal

Not sure how to dispose of electronics? Here are some top e-waste facts to show why proper electronic waste disposal is so important.

6 August 2019

How to recycling electronics: a pair of red electronic headphones resting on a wooden table against a blue background
Sustainability

Key steps

Don't throw away old electrical products; try the following:

  • Reduce: don’t buy unnecessary new electronics
  • Reuse: Protect your electronics to give them a longer life
  • Recycle or upcycle: Local centres will recycle electronics or give them new uses at home
  • Sell or donate: Let someone else use working electronics
 

Electronics devices often contain chemicals that can be harmful to the environment when they are put straight into landfill. Plus, they are usually made up of materials that could be easily recycled once separated and thus cut down on our overall waste. Here we’ll show you how to dispose of electronics appropriately from recycling electrical items to putting them back to good use.

 E-waste can take millions of years to decompose and can release harmful chemicals in landfill. Instead, try to reduce, reuse, recycle, upcycle, sell or donate your old electronics.

E-waste facts: Everything you need to know about electronic waste including FAQs

Most homes these days are filled with electronic equipment and gadgets from phones to battery operated children’s toys. Here are some top facts you should know:

  • How much are we disposing of electrical goods? With phone contracts being upgraded once every 1-2 years, a demand for new, upgraded smart technology and more, we are producing more e-waste than ever before. Whilst the U.S. is the biggest offender, we in the U.K. are not faultless. We average approximately 31 million tonnes of e-waste a year.
  • Why is e-waste a problem? Apart from the obvious issue of running out of space in landfill to store e-waste (resulting in it being shipped of too countries like Ghana) e-waste puts harmful chemicals such as lead, cadmium and more into soil and water contaminating the food chain and leading to health risks.
  • Will e-waste decompose? Sadly, once e-waste is put into a landfill it will be there for a long, long time. In fact, it can take 1-2 million years for glass components and 1 million years for plastic components so it might as well be forever! E-waste you throw away today will still be around approximately 40,000 generations from now.
  • Are there alternatives to electronic waste disposal? Of course! You can reduce, reuse and recycle electronics instead of throwing them away.

So, how can we make disposing of electrical goods more sustainable?

If you’re wondering how to dispose of electronics, don’t worry: we’ve got you covered. Below are six ways for you to deal with e-waste from recycling electrical goods, to donating them locally.

  1. Reduce: consider revaluating whether the product you want to replace really needs to be. Think about whether you and your family need things before making a new purchase.
  2. Reuse: Rather than upgrading or replacing things, help them to last longer by ensuring they are protected with cases, screen protectors, insurance and more. Make sure you look after rather than considered a replaceable one-use type product. If you want to clean them up and reuse them, check out our guides for dealing will spillages on electronics and how to clean laptops and other devices.
  3. Recycle: Recycling electronic goods doesn’t mean popping them into your recycling bin, but many local waste centres will recycle electronics.
  4. Upcycle: If your electronics are no longer working, it doesn’t mean they can’t be upcycled into new things around your home. For example, if your laptop no longer works, but the screen is intact, add it in as a second monitor to your work space.
  5. Sell: Whilst it is wise to carefully dispose of electronics which no longer work; if you have working electronics, have a look around to see if you can sell online or at local cash for product shops.
  6. Donate: Do some good with working electronics you no longer want or need by donating them. There are plenty of social programmes including youth centres and more who are likely to be able to take and reuse your old electronics.
 

Now, you have all the e-waste facts you need to be fully informed. With our simple guide you now have some sustainable options to dispose of electronics whilst being kind to the environment.