Report shows need to increase awareness of e-waste among young people

Despite the escalating e-waste issue, almost half of young individuals have not recycled a phone, and 38 per cent have discarded their phones with regular waste.

E-wasteA newly published report has stressed the need to raise awareness about the value of materials in electronic devices. The joint research by Hubbub, Virgin Media O2, and environmental think tank, Green Alliance, titled ‘Time After Time E-waste Report’, delved into the behaviours of Gen Z concerning e-waste. Among the 3,000 respondents and focus group participants, only 51 per cent trust recyclers to handle their electricals appropriately.

Notably, the 16-26 age group has shown a propensity to purchase second-hand devices, with nearly half having already done so. However, misconceptions about the quality of refurbished devices remain a barrier, necessitating more efforts in clarifying concerns over battery life, data security, and the overall desirability of second-hand tech.

Convenience also appeared to be a significant factor in recycling behaviour, as the study indicates a higher likelihood of device recycling when services are readily available at locations like high streets or supermarkets.

The report comes ahead of International E-waste Day this Saturday (14 October).

Libby Peake, head of resource policy at Green Alliance, said: “People want the things they own to be long-lasting and repairable, but the UK generates more e-waste than any other country apart from Norway – more than three times the global average.

“One reason for this contradiction is, as this research shows, it can be difficult and expensive to repair our gadgets or buy them second-hand. That’s something the government could address: ensuring that products are designed with repair in mind, making it clear how easy it is to repair products when they’re sold, and eliminating VAT on spare parts and repair work. We can’t just keep ignoring the problem.”

Green Alliance's recommendations for addressing e-waste include designing devices for repairability, enforcing mandatory warranties, better product labelling, and introducing tax incentives for repair and second-hand purchases.

Gavin Ellis, Co-Founder of Hubbub said: “With 5.3 billion mobile phones expected to be discarded this year globally and over a third of young people admitting to previously disposing of their phone in the bin, we urgently need to get a grip on the vast amounts of electrical items that are being disposed of incorrectly and ending up in landfill.

“Our research suggests 66 per cent of young people are unaware that smartphones contain precious metals. They also replace their phones more often than any other age group. They’re savvy and keen to do the right thing, but it’s evident they need much more support to do this, including receiving information on the subject in a tone or format that speaks to them. The Time After Time E-waste Report maps out what is required from industry and government to tackle this problem and cross-sector collaboration is absolutely key, so we’re keen to hear from organisations across the industry to explore how we can work together.”

Recommendations on e-waste

The ‘Time After Time E-waste report’ concludes with several recommendations:

  • Educating Gen-Z about e-waste and its implications.
  • Promoting second-hand devices and dispelling myths about refurbished tech.
  • Encouraging longer device use and highlighting good care habits.
  • Supporting DIY repairs with guides and underscoring the financial benefits.
  • Facilitating the handover of old devices by elucidating the benefits and offering guidance on data protection.
  • Easier device recycling by offering clear instructions, convenient recycling points, and potential financial incentives.
  • This research underscores the dire need for cooperative action in the tech and electronics sector, aiming to minimize e-waste and promote sustainable practices among consumers.

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