Are you guilty of the UK's e-waste secret?

Written by: Ad Casey | Published:
Image credit: Adobe stock

It’s movie night at home. You throw a bag of popcorn in the microwave and start it up, but nothing happens.

You press every button, turn it off and on, check the plug socket – it’s dead. Research conducted by online spare parts retailer eSpares reveals that at this point most people decide to buy a replacement without considering the cost or resulting environmental impact.

A symptom of what is often referred to as our ‘throwaway’ culture, Britain’s care-free attitude to appliances means that millions of electrical items are being needlessly binned. But, while consumers have begun to appreciate the environmental damage of other commonly-discarded materials (such as single-use plastics), e-waste has seemingly gone unnoticed.

It’s a growing problem given that more than 1.4 million tonnes are discarded every year. More worrying still, more than 70% of this figure is registered as unaccounted for – either ending up in landfill, fly-tipped or contributing to international waste crime.

While many may ignore the implications of our wasteful actions, e-waste is having a catastrophic impact on the environment and change is needed immediately.

Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of e-waste is that a significant proportion of the discarded appliances and devices are repairable.

Failing appliances are a relatively common experience for modern consumers – from vacuums and washing machines to refrigerators and dishwashers, we have all been let down at
some point.

The cost of e-waste

However, it’s vital to understand that e-waste is a considerable issue. Alongside the unnecessary environmental impact, it’s costing consumers millions of pounds.

Despite these clear consequences less than a quarter of us would attempt to repair a faulty appliance ourselves. Research from eSpares has revealed that many householders believe fixing their appliances would be
too costly or complicated.

Those aged between 45 and 54 were found to be the most likely to bin repairable appliances, with just one in five prepared to attempt a fix, alongside the upper and middle classes where the vast majority opt to buy new and expensive replacement models.

While much of this waste can be repaired, consumers either don’t know how to or simply don’t want to. While this may seem convenient at the time, each UK resident is responsible for creating almost 15kg of damaging e-waste per year.

Following on from its research, eSpares has launched a national movement –#FixFirst. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the e-waste issue and drive widespread behavioural change by empowering people to fix their appliances rather than throwing them away.

According to EU data, if we were to fix just 10% of our e-waste in the UK it would be possible to prevent some 100,000 tonnes from unnecessarily being discarded in landfill – or contributing to waste crime.

Counteracting such a widespread and systemic problem is no easy task, but the company believes that helping the public to understand e-waste must be the first step.

The #FixFirst campaign is a national movement to prevent the unnecessary creation and landfilling of e-waste. Many will find the results of our recent survey shocking – and they are. Fortunately e-waste is something that can be easily addressed by consumers.

Fixing broken appliances is often quicker and far easier than many people imagine. There is a wealth of information available and householders usually require only basic tools and the appropriate spare parts.

Ad Casey is head of brand at online spare parts retailers eSpares.

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