Brits still binning WEEE

More than two-thirds of UK households are still putting electrical gadgets in the household waste and 17% do not recycle electrical items at all.

Research from electrical specialist Comet to mark the first anniversary of the introduction of the WEEE Directive on Tuesday showed consumers are lagging behind on electrical recycling compared to other household items.

Although awareness of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) has increased from 2% in 2007 to 67% today, but Comet said this did was not matched by action.

UK residents currently throw away enough WEEE every year to fill the new Wembley six times, and each person throws away 3.3 tonnes in their lifetime.

Commenting on the findings, Bob Mead, WEEE policy adviser for the Environment Agency, said the directive is having a positive impact on the amount of waste electronics ending up in landfill.

“Householders in Britain throw away more than a million tonnes of electrical waste every year,” he said.

“However, about a third of this is now collected, treated and recycled. In fact, in the first six months of WEEE, about 184,000 tonnes of household WEEE was collected and treated, and therefore diverted from landfill.”

Under the directive, retailers such as Comet are responsible for collecting and recycling old electrical items, and the chain last year expanded its collection service.

It now recycles more than 400,000 electrical items a year and helps to fund recycling facilities at rubbish tips across the UK.

Toby Lousada, Comet’s services director said today’s figures were a big improvement on the amount of people recycling electrical equipment before the directive was introduced, but encouraged consumers to do more.

“Although only a third of British households recycle all electrical goods, the items that are recycled tend to only include bigger electrical items, for example fridges and dishwashers,” he said.

“However all electrical items such as toasters, radios and ice cream makers can be taken to local electrical amenity sites and recycled. On the 1st anniversary of WEEE we’d like to encourage more consumers to do their bit.”

Kate Martin

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie