Recycling Electrical Goods

How to Reduce, Reuse, Repair & Recycle Electrical Goods, from Ethical Consumer. 

Reducing

There is an environmental argument for getting a new telly. This is due to two facts. The first fact is that, in general, TVs seem to use considerably more energy during their lives than they do while they are being made. It is very hard to get reliable figures, partly as everything is changing so fast. But one study estimated that 90% of a TV’s total life-cycle energy is expended in use.[1]

The second fact is that – at least at per-inch and picture quality level – TVs are getting more energy efficient. One 2013 analysis found that even despite the increase in size, the average electricity used by new TVs had halved in three years.[2]

Of course, it isn’t just energy use that has an environmental impact. In terms of materials, toxins and waste, it is worth keeping your TV as long as possible. Moreover, as in the case of all electronics, much of the manufacture goes on in China, where the energy comes from an electricity grid dominated by coal. There isn’t an overall clear answer on what to do, but the strongest case for quickening your TV’s passage to TV heaven is if you own one of the notoriously inefficient plasma TVs.

Luckily, cameras present much less of a dilemma. It is estimated that about 60% of their total life cycle energy is expended during manufacture and disposal.[3] The greenest camera is the one you’ve already got.

Repairing

In 2011 a study looking at disposed electrical goods found that 23% of them could have been rescued with only a small amount of repair.[4]

Image: Restart Group repairing
Photo credit: The Restart Project.

The Restart Project is a London-based charity that runs workshops for lay people on repairing electrical goods. It can also be worth checking a website called Ifixit which claims to have “the free repair guide for everything, written by everyone”.

Reusing

If you’re in Scotland and want to get a working flat screen TV picked up for free and given to a local charity, you can call the National re-use phone line. It picks up other things too, but unfortunately not small items like cameras. Its number is 0800 0665 820.

There are also several charity shops that will sometimes pick up working electrical goods for free including:

DEBRA

Age UK 

British Heart Foundation

However, BHF has been criticised by campaigners for funding animal testing.[5]

And it is always worth attempting to buy or sell second hand, although it may not be possible to get as much for your second hand electronics as you’d hoped, as new prices are falling so rapidly.[6] 

Or you can give away or receive unwanted items for free on Freecycle or Freegle.

Recycling

Because of the hazardous substances they contain, electronic goods should never just be thrown in the bin. Since 2007, all retailers are legally obliged to either offer their own free disposal service, which must accept goods that were not bought in the shop (Curry’s is one shop that does this), or, alternatively, they must contribute financially to the scheme of national ‘designated collection facilities’. You can find your nearest facility using the Recycling Locator.

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