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Recycling small electronics could become easier for UK consumers by 2026 with retailers charged for the disposal of e-waste, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Under new plans being considered by ministers, e-waste such as cables, hairdryers and toasters could be collected from UK homes or dropped off at recycling points in stores for free. The policy would see retailers charged for the disposal of this e-waste, rather than the consumer.

Recycling minister, Robbie Moore, said: “Every year millions of household electricals across the UK end up in the bin rather than being correctly recycled or reused. This is a sheer waste of our natural resources and has to stop.

“We all have a drawer of old tech somewhere that we don’t know what to do with and our proposals will ensure these gadgets are easy to dispose of without the need for a trip to your local tip. Our plans will also drive the move to a more circular economy and create new jobs by making all recycling simpler.”

Statistics show an estimated 155,000 tonnes of smaller household electricals such as kettles and power tools are wrongly thrown in the bin each year. UK homes are thought to hoard a further 527 million unwanted electrical items containing valuable materials such as gold, silver and platinum.

The waste generated during the festive period demonstrates the scale of the problem: 500 tonnes of Christmas lights are discarded every year in the UK.

Currently, retailers including B&Q, Currys and John Lewis offer a paid-for collection service for large electrical appliances when customers buy a similar item. Ministers will now engage with manufacturers, retailers and small businesses throughout a 10-week consultation, which opened on Thursday 28 December 2023.


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