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6 ways to rescue tech from the bin

Emma Lewins
July 11, 2023

Having a clear out? Whether you’re moving out of uni halls, or you’ve just lugged everything back to your parents for the summer, we know the feeling – there's lots of stuff!

But something that doesn’t belong in the landfill bin is your old electrical items. E-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world, and when it’s not properly disposed of, it can leak harmful toxins or even start fires. How can you tell if something is e-waste and needs recycling separately? If the answer is yes to any of the questions below, the item is electrical:

·      Does it have a plug?

·      Does it use batteries?

·      Does it need charging?

·      Does it have a picture of a crossed-out wheelie bin on it?

Don’t let electrical items like internet routers, vapes or other items with hidden batteries sneak by (cough cough that novelty light up Christmas jumper probably has a battery in it!). Luckily there are increasingly more options to regift or recycle your electricals! If you’ve got an old phone, small electricals or a bunch of old wires you don’t need anymore, here are 6 ways to rescue them from the bin:


1.  Pass on your tech  

You can pass on your tech to someone else by asking around friends and family members, sharing with neighbours through OLIO, Facebook marketplace or freecycle, or donating to charity shops that accept electricals to raise money for a good cause.

Speaking of good causes, Community Calling, in partnership with Virgin Media O2, provides a very practical solution to support vulnerable groups get digitally connected, whilst also helping to tackle e-waste. So far, they've re-homed 15,000 smartphones! Gift your phone to Community Calling.


2.  Find your nearest E-Waste recycling point

There are on-street bins for recycling e-waste! This handy recycling locator uses your postcode to find the closest drop off point for electricals to you.

Did you know the UK has enough old cables hidden in homes to go around the world five times? And these cables and electricals contain precious materials like copper, aluminium, and even gold that can be recycled into new products. These are critical materials for things like solar panels, wind turbines, EVs and energy storage – which all help us transition to renewable energy.


3.  Try out a local in-store tech recycling pointor trade in

Currys sometimes runs a Cash 4 Trash recycling program: you get a £5 voucher for bringing in old tech and recycling it responsibly, they even accept some broken items!

If your tech still works, it’s worth checking in store at CEX if you can trade in it for cash or money to be used in store.


4.  Does your phone carrier have a recycling program?

Check out your phone carrier’s website to see if they’ll take back your phone. For example, through O2’s take-back program O2 recycle, you can get cash for your old phone directly into your bank account. O2 recycle has a zero landfill policy, so phones they receive will be reused, repaired, or recycled for parts.

If your old phone is still in good condition,you will get more money for selling it on (all the more reason to look after the phone you’re using now!). There are loads of places that want to buy your old device.


5.  Does your uni have a recycling program?

Your uni might have its own service to organise the collection and refurbishment of loads of different tech (things like laptops, tablets, desktops etc). Check out the Uni of Manchester’s recycle and disposal service, and see if your uni has something similar!


6.  UK-wide free collection service for laptops,monitors, & larger electronics!

If you’ve got a bunch of tech, there are some free collection services that work with businesses, public sector bodies, charities or any other organisation (like a student society!) to organise free collection and data wiping. Green IT Disposal and WEEE Charity are tech and IT disposal services that will collect your group’s electrical waste and recycle it responsibly.