BT sheds light on the UK's growing e-waste problem

Messy drawer full of wires and cables in a complete disorder
(Image credit: Enrique Alaez Perez / Shutterstock)

Almost a third (31%) of Brits don’t know how to recycle unwanted electrical items, with 41% admitting to having cupboards full of cables, broadband hubs, and even printers.

That's according to new research from BT, which surveyed 3,600 UK adults on their tech recycling habits.

The research found that printers were the most confusing item to recycle, with 31% not knowing how to do so. This was followed by cables (30%), which was also the most commonly unused item stored at home, with almost half (44%) of UK adults admitting to having them clutter up their cupboards and drawers. Other items commonly hoarded include broadband hubs (29%), smart speakers (26%), and Wi-Fi extenders (21%).

BT found that the majority of UK adults (74%) place electronics in black bin liners, committing them to landfill instead of recycling, which has disastrous consequences on the environment. Another 55% of Britons admitted to engaging in ‘wishful recycling’ – placing e-waste in recycling bins in hopes that they’ll reach a recycling centre.

This is why BT is appealing to the public to seek recycling guidance by contacting their local authority or find more information on Recycle Now. The company has also implemented some recycling changes of its own, by making it obligatory for customers to return no longer needed broadband routers.

Matthew Hughes, director of Broadband at BT, said that this rule, introduced in 2019, really boosted [BT’s] recycling efforts”.

“Thanks to these changes and the commitment of our customers, we’ve prevented the release of 11,430 tonnes of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of 6,000 flights from London to Tokyo,” he added, citing figures provided by the Carbon Trust.

The company has also committed to becoming a net-zero carbon emissions business by 2045, and in February 2021 signed a three-year renewable energy supply deal with TotalEnergies.

The news comes as the UK’s technology sector is being urged to make a formal commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, with the UK’s Net Zero Business Champion asking companies to sign a pledge available on the Business Climate Hub’s website.

Sabina Weston

Having only graduated from City University in 2019, Sabina has already demonstrated her abilities as a keen writer and effective journalist. Currently a content writer for Drapers, Sabina spent a number of years writing for ITPro, specialising in networking and telecommunications, as well as charting the efforts of technology companies to improve their inclusion and diversity strategies, a topic close to her heart.

Sabina has also held a number of editorial roles at Harper's Bazaar, Cube Collective, and HighClouds.