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UK falls short in electronics recycling, survey finds

old-computersWhen it comes to recycling old electronics, British consumers fall far behind their counterparts on the continent, according to new research conducted for Dell.

The Dell survey, conducted by Research Now, asked 5,000 people in the UK, rance, Germany, Italy and Spain about their electronics recycling habits and awareness.

Germans came out on top in the survey, with four out of five saying their regularly recycle their electronics. The UK placed last, with just one in two respondents saying they recycle.

Britons also came up short in their general awareness of electronic manufacturers’ recycling schemes and government initiatives, the study found. In fact, their responses indicate they are more influenced by the media than by government legislation such as the 2007 Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, which  aims to both reduce the amount of electrical and electronic equipment being produced and to encourage people to reuse, recycle and recover their devices.

While the survey finds the British are less informed about electronics recycling, the same doesn’t apply to recycling in general. In fact, the number of UK consumers who claim to regularly recycle paper, plastics and glass was higher than the European average, according to the study.

“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,” said Tony Juniper, an independent sustainability advisor and former director of Friends of the Earth. “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.”

The Dell survey also found that consumer recycling behaviour across the UK dependent varies by region:

  • Respondents in Scotland and London were found to care more about the implications of improper technology disposal, with 4 per cent claiming to recycle electronics more than any other category of waste (versus a 1-per cent average across the UK);
  • Of all UK regions, consumers in Wales recycle electronics the least often, with 17 per cent of Welsh respondents saying they have never recycled technology;
  • The media’s influence on recycling is most apparent in London, where 85 per cent claimed to be more influenced by local news than by the Government;
  • A lack of awareness about technology recycling was most apparent in the North East, where nearly three out of four residents claim to do everything they can to recycle, but less than 1 per cent recycle electronics;
  • 60 per cent of respondents in Yorkshire and the Humber said they had never heard of the WEEE directive or other similar government legislation, whereas 60 per cent of those in the South West of England had heard of such legislation. In addition, 72 per cent of respondents in the North West were unaware of their computer manufacturer’s recycling policies.

Dell said organisations and governments need to adopt a more targeted communication approach to increase technology recycling and address Europe’s fastest-growing waste stream. It also recommends that consumers:

  • Learn about electronic manufacturers’ recycling policies by looking for recycling information in the product literature or on the manufacturer’s Website. Initiatives such as those run by Dell are often free and include collection;
  • Call their local council or council-run recycling centre to locate facilities that deal with electronics;
  • Share knowledge and discuss recycling with others via sites such as ReGeneration;
  • Find ways to make recycling fun and educational, and to involve family, friends and neighbours.

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