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Do we need to change our attitudes towards recycling e-waste?

01st - 08th September 2023

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Total votes


Age 5-11 votes


Age 11-16+ votes

How many old phones, laptops, tablets or TVs do you have in your house? How many do you just end up chucking in the bin?

If you do, you definitely are not alone. Two in five people in the UK have said they still own a smartphone they don’t use. And the Health and Safety Executive estimates that about 2 million tons of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment is discarded every year.

The issue is not just restricted to high ticket items like phones and TVs. No doubt you’ve noticed the number of disposable vapes that are in use and need to end up somewhere. The latest research from Material Focus shows that huge numbers of these end up in the bin. They call it one of the most pressing issues with electronic recycling today.

In celebration of Zero Waste Week (4th-8th September), voters explored the mounting problem of e-waste and considered different ways of tackling the problem. This VoteTopic marked the beginning of the 2023/24 school year!

Secondary and College voters all considered: “Do we need to change our attitudes towards recycling e-waste?” while Primary 5-11 voters discussed: “Do we know how to care for our electronics?”

Recycling e-waste VT child

Age 5-11 voter

"I know how to look after electronics but I don't always do it!"

Recycling e-waste VT teen

Age 11-16 voter

"Companies should not release new products as often to cut down on unnecessary updates."

Recycling e-waste VT student

Age 16+ voter

"More should be done to re-use electronics to make their user life much longer, all electronics should be made to last longer instead of constantly renewing things such as mobiles."

73% of those aged between 11 & 16 said we need to change our attitudes towards recycling e-waste.

  • Our Secondary voters, aged between 11-16 voted on the question, "Do we need to change our attitudes towards recycling e-waste?"
  • The majority, at 73% voted 'Yes', with just over 1/4 of respondents voting 'No'.
86% of those aged between 5 & 11 argued that we know how to care for our electronics.

  • Our Primary voters were answering a different question this week: "Do we know how to care for our electronics?"
  • The majority, at 86% voted 'Yes'.
  • However, some voters commented that whilst we know how to, we often don't look after our electronics as we should. This could come down to our attitude towards recycling e-waste, as our older voters discussed.
78% of our 16+ & College voters also voted 'Yes' to the question, "Do we need to change our attitudes towards recycling e-waste?"

  • 16+ & College voters considered the same questions as Secondary voters this week: "Do we need to change our attitudes towards recycling e-waste?"
  • A greater majority, at 78% voted 'Yes', with just under 1/4 of respondents voting 'No'.
Some argued that companies and individuals should prioritise the longevity of electronic products by releasing and buying updated versions less often and recycling where possible.

  • A common suggestion from voter comments was for companies to release fewer products, with an emphasis on maximising the longevity of the products they do release.
  • Some voters also argued that individuals could do more by keeping their electronic devices for longer before choosing to replace them.
Recycling e-waste results

Feedback from our partners...

Thank you so much to our partners for such a great response for our first topic of the new school year!

Moira Thomas, Director of Sustainability at Curry's, the electrics retailer.

Niamh McBride, Local Authority Partnerships Manager at Material Focus. Material Focus are not for profit that has a mission to stop electricals being hoarded and thrown away, and ensure they’re reused and recycled instead.

Oliver Franklin-Wallis, journalist and author of Wasteland. His book explores the journey of what happens when we throw things away.

Dr Alison Stowell, Senior Lecturer at University of Lancaster. Her research focuses on social and organisational responses to the challenges of waste.