Study reveals UK throws away 500m small electricals per year



Ahead of International E-Waste Day, new research from Material Focus reveals the UK threw away nearly half a billion small “FastTech” electricals in the last year.

“FastTech” refers to everyday small electrical items, including headphones, cables, decorative lights, mini fans, and single-use vapes. Material Focus says these items often have a short lifespan and cost £4 on average, which it says means they may be seen as “disposable” even when they’re not designed to be. 47% of the UK public don’t expect cheaper electricals to last long, according to the research.

The study conducted by Material Focus as part of the Recycle Your Electricals campaign to mark International E-Waste Day on Saturday 14 October reveals over half a billion “FastTech” items were purchased in the last year – one every sixteen seconds.

According to the findings, 471 million small electrical items were disposed of in landfill per annum including 260 million disposable vapes, 26 million cables, 29 million LED, solar and decorative lights, 9.8 million USB sticks, and 4.8 million mini fans.

FastTech is seriously rivalling Fast Fashion, and is causing similar headaches.

Every year, the average UK adult buys 9 FastTech items and throws away 8, the study found – 39% of respondents said they purchased the items as a replacement for something broken and 8% said they purchased them as a fun novelty.

Scott Butler, Executive Director of Material Focus, commented: “FastTech is seriously rivalling Fast Fashion, and is causing similar headaches. People should think carefully about buying some of the more frivolous FastTech items in the first place.

“But as FastTech items are quite cheap and small, people may not realise that they contain valuable materials and will just pop them in the bin, meaning we lose everything inside them instead of recycling them into something new. We want to get the message across that anything with a plug, battery or cable can be recycled and there’s somewhere near you to do it.”

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