Written By Moira Thomas, Group Sustainable Business & ESG Director
14 October, 2022
This year’s International E-Waste Day slogan is ‘Recycle it all, no matter how small!’ and aims to highlight how small, end of life electronics present a significant challenge globally. At Currys, we absolutely agree with this ethos and are using our scale to make a difference through our ‘Long Live Your Tech’ commitment which helps our customers give their tech a longer life.
The scale of the problem is vast. In 2019, the UN estimated that over 22m tonnes of small e-waste was produced worldwide and this is expected to rise to 29m tonnes by 2030, with total e-waste expected to grow to 75m tonnes globally by 2030. The UK is the second highest producer of e-waste globally, and electrical waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world.
Last year, only a third of UK adults recycled their unwanted electricals1. In the UK, small e-waste tends to be recycled less often than large e-waste as it can be more challenging to do. Small e-waste is often hoarded at home, because consumers have concerns around data wiping and privacy, or alternatively it is thrown into household bins due to its size.
This means that UK households are sitting on a goldmine of tech treasure, currently stockpiling an estimated 527 million2 of unwanted electrical items - that’s the equivalent of 20 items per UK household.
Those who hoard e-waste are holding on to a veritable goldmine of vital components and raw materials, some of which can be put back into circulation if the tech was handed in for recycling or rehoming. Each year, more than £850m3 of precious metals could be salvaged from old electricals, including enough gold to make more than 850,000 rings4. And, today, more precious metals such as gold, silver and palladium can be found in e-waste than in natural ores in the ground5.
We have to face facts: we can’t keep throwing stuff away and we can’t keep stuffing our old tech into cupboards and drawers and forgetting about it.
As part of our mission to help everyone enjoy amazing technology, Currys wants to change people’s relationship with technology for the better, by giving tech a longer life. Which is why we don’t just sell amazing technology; we save it too.
We recognise the pressing need to improve our use of resources and create circular business models. In fact, we believe that instead of throwing your old tech way, there’s a far better way – the life of technology can be extended through repair, recycling and reuse programmes. And as the UK’s largest tech retailer, part of helping our customers choose and enjoy their shiny new kit means, we must support them in giving a longer life to the tech they have – something never more important given the cost-of-living crisis.
This is why we are making the recycling, repairing and rehoming of unwanted tech so much easier for those who want to do the right thing with unwanted devices and e-waste, but don’t necessarily know where to start.
As the #1 tech retailer in all the markets we operate in, and with 80% of UK households having shopped with us in the past three years, we are in a unique position to make a positive change – to both the planet and to our customers’ pockets.
We’re on a mission to give tech a longer life. And we’re doing it at every stage of the product’s life (see film below), from the expert advice from our passionate colleagues give when a customer buys their amazing technology to when the tech has reached the end of its life, where we reuse parts or recycle the items responsibly. We currently recycle over 100,000 tonnes of used tech every year across our Group - that’s over 50,000 London black cabs – and we want to encourage everyone to bring their old or unwanted tech into our stores to be recycled or reused for free – whether they bought it from us or not.
And we are there for our customers at every stage in between too – if they need help repairing it, or when they wish to trade it in, we can give it longer life in a different form to somebody else. We’ll try to refurbish and re-use the tech where we can, selling it as second hand, or donating it to those who need it most.
We also regularly run Cash for Trash campaigns that give customers a monetary voucher in return for any unwanted or broken tech handed in in-store. Our most recent Cash for Trash campaign saw over 40,000 customers hand in their old unwanted tech to claim their vouchers and since the launch of the campaign in March, and they have saved almost £200,000.
We’re proud to be giving technology longer life and to be leading the way in changing everyone’s relationship with tech for the better. After all, we’ve already been recycling and repairing technology for over 20 years. However, there is still millions of tonnes of tech treasure sitting idle in homes up and down the country, which is why this International E-waste Day we are encouraging people to hand it over, don’t hoard it.
We want the nation to hand in their unwanted tech via our instore take back service and Cash for Trash campaign, so that we can keep tech and the vital materials they contain in use. We estimate that last year, Currys kept nearly 17 million kilograms of tech in circulation*. We want to that grow that number.
We’ve come a long way but we’re just getting started.
1Research conducted by YouGov and commissioned by Currys. Total sample size: 2091 adults. Fieldwork undertaken between 18th - 21st February 2022 online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 16+). 2In the Environmental Audit Committee’s Electronic waste and the Circular Economy report. 3https://www.recycleyourelectricals.org.uk/hidden-treasure-in-our-homes. 4https://www.recycleyourelectricals.org.uk/ethical-jewellery-made-from-recycled-electricals ; 5https://www.fastcompany.com/90593054/we-dissected-nearly-100-devices-to-study-e-waste-what-we-found-is-alarming.
*In the 12-months period ending 30 April 2022, Currys UK&I