Younger Householders More Likely To “Trade In” Than Recycle Electricals

UK householders aged between 16 and 29 are less likely than those over 60 to recycle electrical items that are either broken or in good working order, preferring instead to sell them online.

Estimating the current value of their outdated or broken EEE items at around £700- 800, the 16-29 year olds consider their worth at over £100 more than the 30-44 age group, and over £600 more than those 60 and above.

The most popular items to sell amongst those aged between 16 and 29 are televisions (41%), followed by iPads and Kindles (34%). The favoured online channels for resale of unwanted electrical items in good working order are eBay, followed by Gumtree and Facebook’s ‘buy and sell’ groups.

And when it comes to the decision-making process in choosing what to do with old electricals, it is dependent on several key factors. The quality and condition of an item is the most important factor to 37% of people – more so to women (39%) than men (34%). Data security was also a key consideration with 9% of people stating that the amount of personal data on electrical devices would influence what they do with them at end of life.

“The findings show us that there is much left to do in building meaningful strategies for better data capture. Ultimately, the targets still need to be met, therefore, we must come up with ways of meeting them. And the starting point is through gaining greater intelligence.”

This apparently growing second hand stream could in part help explain why the sale of a new product does not always result in an old product appearing in collected WEEE.

The findings, taken from a survey commissioned by REPIC, highlights the crucial need for better data capture on both EEE and WEEE flows outside of the reported PCS system.

The ease of buying and selling through online platforms and from smart devices has seen huge growth in the last ten years. The fast pace of development in technology is also leading to working products, which may still have a relatively high value, being passed on by their first user well before their working life has expired.

Trading up for new “tech” and selling last year’s model is in such circumstances becoming the norm, and much like the motor vehicle market there are growing numbers of traders buying and selling second hand items. This means electrical items can be traded through several hands before the item is finally discarded at the end of its working life.

There are many other alternative routes for unwanted electricals, such as those donated to charity shops, sold at car boot sales or passed between family members.

Whilst finding a legitimate second, third, or multiple life for unwanted electrical items should be encouraged, this information is not currently captured or reported in the official data as WEEE.

This is likely to be having a bearing on the widening gap between targets set based on EEE sales and actual WEEE collection reported. Therefore, the challenge for REPIC and other e-waste organisations is to better quantify what happens to products on their journey to end-of-life stage, how long it takes for them to enter the waste stream and the point at which used EEE becomes waste.

Mark Burrows-Smith, REPIC Chief Executive, says: “Technology is increasingly changing our lives, and our industry needs to understand and be responsive to technology, economic and behavioural changes, and their interconnectedness”.

“Understanding the channels where the ‘hands-on’ of EEE is occurring after its first use is an important issue. Being able to do so helps us to paint a clearer picture of the use phase of EEE, before it arrives at recycling centres. This intelligence helps to further inform recycling targets based on new EEE sales, and how we can work together to encourage positive environmental behaviour, while cracking down on illegitimate activity and bad practices.”

“The findings show us that there is much left to do in building meaningful strategies for better data capture”, he adds. “Ultimately, the targets still need to be met, therefore, we must come up with ways of meeting them. And the starting point is through gaining greater intelligence.”


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  1. I think the results of Repics’ is interesting but what questions were asked is key to what the results will favour. It’s an organisation that thrives on Waste and as it does so, it uses some of it’s profits to support a few community initiatives. Not a bad thing, but the bulk of its profits are dependent on consumer giving used items to them, via their collection streams.

    It’s never going to be creating jobs in every single community in the UK, through it’s current model as the corporate infrastructure demands high wages as does it’s overall costs. They are like many of their kind fueling a culture of consumption, in order that they can receive more waste. This kind of mentality needs to shift as many will agree around the world. The research was designed it seems to help support and continue that mentality. If citizens whom they asked were given more information about other options that add value to their communities, then we would most likely have seen a different kind of report. We’ve been part of a 3 Year EU funded project on Critical Raw Materials for instance. It’s clear that there is a lot of value in those Waste Electricals, so if the same respondents were told that there were other options for these replaced items, to create real social, environmental, financial benefits, with local jobs being created, then I do wonder if the results would have been very different.

    It’s important to look more closely at market surveys etc. Ask ourselves, who’s doing this and why? Only then will we be able to balance opinion and views and hopefully engender responsible journalism. I believe CIWM has to look at this as well, when it reports such findings, which of course I continue to support. It’s a good mechanism and we must remember CIWM must also survive and follow it’s latest business plan, learning it’s lessons from experience.

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