Research Reveals Alarming Rise in ‘Fast Tech’ E-Waste, Urging Consumers to Recycle
A staggering half a billion small electrical items, labeled as “Fast Tech,” were discarded in the UK last year, signaling a concerning trend of disposable electronics, according to research conducted by Material Focus. These Fast Tech items, often considered the fast fashion of the tech world, encompass cables, lights, mini fans, and disposable vapes, representing the fastest-growing category of electronic waste (e-waste).
The research, commissioned by the not-for-profit organization Material Focus, involved a survey of 2,000 individuals conducted by Opinium Research. The study reveals a significant environmental challenge, with 471 million Fast Tech items being thrown away in 2022. These items include 260 million disposable vapes, 30 million LED, solar, and decorative lights, 26 million cables, 10 million USB sticks, 7 million cordless headphones, and 5 million mini fans.
Fast Tech items, with an average cost of £4, are often perceived as disposable, contributing to the alarming rise in electronic waste. While designed for convenience, these items contain valuable raw materials such as copper wires and lithium batteries that can be recovered through recycling processes.
Scott Butler, Executive Director of Material Focus, emphasized the importance of raising awareness about the recyclability of these items. He stated, “People may not realize that they contain valuable materials and will just pop them in the bin, meaning we lose everything inside them instead of recycling them into something new. We want to get the message across that anything with a plug, battery, or cable can be recycled, and there’s somewhere near you to do it.”
The survey also unveiled that the average household has around thirty unused electrical items gathering dust. These items, ranging from cables to mobile phones and remote controls, represent an untapped resource that could be repurposed or recycled.
The research also revealed a positive trend, indicating a decrease in the overall amount of electrical waste since 2017. This reduction is attributed to lighter electrical items and an increase in recycling rates, with 60% of respondents stating that they now recycle their electricals.
Nadiya Catel-Arutyunova, Sustainability Advisor at the British Retail Consortium, emphasized the responsibility of retailers in managing electronic waste. She stated, “All retailers selling electricals, whether it is online or in-store, are required to help customers dispose of their old electrical products – regardless of where they were originally purchased.”
Material Focus, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting recycling, is funded by fees paid by electrical producers when they fall short of meeting government recycling targets. The research serves as a call to action, urging individuals to reconsider the disposability of Fast Tech items and embrace responsible recycling practices to combat the growing challenge of electronic waste.