UK lowest in Europe for recycling electronics

by Published Wed 27 May 2009 17:22
Britons fall behind Euro neighbours with IT recycling

The UK has come bottom of a European league table for recycling old electronics, according to a new survey.

Consumer confusion around the recycling options available for old hardware and gadgets has led to a country of technology wasters, with one out of two British consumers failing to correctly recycle their old technology.

And according to the research conducted for global computer firm Dell, members of the nation’s younger generation are the most notable accumulators.

The survey focused on the recycling habits of 5,000 consumers across the UK (1,000 respondents), France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

The findings reveal interesting gaps when it comes to electronics recycling depending on gender, age and nationality, with Germans proving the most eager with four in five regularly recycling electronics compared to the more complacent British public who only polled a meagre one in two.

In general awareness levels of electronic manufacturers’ recycling schemes and government initiatives such as the WEEE Directive, the British again fall behind and are the least aware of such initiatives or legislation compared to other consumers in Europe.

In fact, when it comes to understanding the importance of correct technology recycling, UK consumers claim to be more influenced by the media than by government legislation.

However, while the British are less informed about the correct procedures for electronics recycling, and show little interest in the available recycling initiatives and legislation to do so, this does not mean that they make the worst recyclers overall. In fact, the level of British consumers who claim to regularly recycle paper, plastics and glass, is higher than the European average, according to the study.

Jean Cox-Kearns, Recycling and Takeback Manager, Dell EMEA, said: “The research suggests different motivations behind recycling depending on sex, age and geography. It tells us that electronic manufacturers such as Dell need to adopt a more targeted approach in communicating the free technology recycling initiatives available and why it’s so important to get involved.”

Consumer recycling behaviour was found to vary across the UK dependent on region. Respondents in Scotland and London are found to care more about the implications of improper technology disposal, with four percent of consumers in each location claiming to recycle electronics more than any other category of waste (4 percent of respondents versus a 1 percent average across the UK)

The Welsh on the other hand are more complacent - or less informed about how to recycle technology - with consumers there recycling electronics the least often of all UK regions (17 percent of Welsh respondents have never recycled technology)

The influence on recycling by the media is most apparent in London, with 85 percent claiming to be more influenced by local news than by the government

A lack of awareness about technology recycling is found to be most apparent in the North East, with nearly three-quarters of residents there claiming they do everything they can to recycle – but less than one percent recycling electronics

Around 60 percent of respondents in Yorkshire and the Humber had never heard of the WEEE directive or other similar government legislation before whereas 60 percent of people in the South West of England had heard of such legislation. In addition, 72 percent of respondents in the North West were unaware of their computer manufacturer’s recycling policies.

To increase technology recycling and address Europe’s fastest growing waste stream, Dell encourages organisations' and governments to adopt a more targeted approach in communicating the free technology recycling initiatives currently available in the UK and why it’s so important for the British public to get involved.

Tony Juniper, former Friends of the Earth director and independent sustainability advisor, says : “These findings show a clear need to drive awareness with consumers around the mounting issue of e-waste and its serious implications to health and the environment.

“Already, we see positive champions at large across Europe so it’s now just a case of electronic manufacturers and governments in every country making the disposal of old electrical equipment as accessible and as commonplace as recycling old paper, plastics and glass.”

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Comments about UK lowest in Europe for recycling electronics

There are many computer recyclers in the UK who are simply flying below the radar to avoid the environment agencies fees and are not counted
Keith Sorrell, Airedale Computers West Yorkshire around 2 years, 9 months ago

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