17m gadgets bypass recycling schemes and end up in landfill sites, says UK report

17m gadgets bypass recycling schemes and end up in landfill sites, says UK report

A new report suggests that around 17 million gadgets, including mobile phones, sat-navs and music players bypass recycling schemes and head straight to landfill sites.

The latest figures from UK mobile operator O2 indicate that a third of adults who simply discard their electronic device could have earned over £40 from sending it to a recycling centre instead, the Independent reports.

We’ve previously reported on how your favorite gadgets are threatening the planet’s future. Your old mobile phone has circuit boards, batteries and an LCD screen – these all contain harmful materials that, when dumped in landfill sites, eventually break down and leak into the environment.

Over time, the likes of lead, cadmium and mercury pollution can be hazardous to the environment and to our health. It was for this reason that, in 2006, California became the first US state to make it mandatory for all mobile phone retailers to establish a collection and recycling program for mobile phones. The law also prevents residents from disposing of old mobile phones.

However, despite containing harmful materials it isn’t illegal to send electrical products to landfill sites in the UK or most other countries, so recycling schemes can be a good incentive for consumers to take the initiative and earn a few bucks from their old devices – and such schemes aren’t in short supply.

Last year we reported that UK mobile operator Three had launched a laptop trade-in scheme offering £150 for your old (but working!) laptop, whilst supermarket chain Asda started offering a similar scheme covering all gadgets not long after.

To promote its own initiative, Orange initiated a study last year that suggested there could be £2.7bn worth of old mobile phones just sitting around in people’s drawers and cupboards at home. Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Boots and many other retailers offer similar services – so why do people simply throw their gadgets in the bin? Is it a lack of awareness of such recycling schemes, or are people so time-pressured that they’d rather throw their old phone in the bin than stick it in a pre-paid envelope and send it somewhere to be managed accordingly?

O2 is today setting out its Think Big Blueprint – a plan for people and the planet. It’s seeking to implement an extensive set of measures to make its business more sustainable, and is pledging to halve the CO2 emissions of its network and to reduce the volume of carbon emitted by the company itself and its customers by 4 million tonnes a year. The company is also looking to expand the range of gadgets its recycling centres will buy to include laptops, tablets and speakers.

We’ll be interested to revisit this further down the line to see how it’s progressing with this. More companies need to take the initiative and steer people away from landfill sites and adopt a less gung-ho approach to ridding themselves of old gadgets.

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