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e-waste pile of old computers and IT equipment.

Broken TVs, outdated mobile phones, and faulty microwaves are all examples of e-waste. Anything with a plug, cord, or battery generally falls into this category. Recycling e-waste is often trickier than other waste types as most electronic devices are made from a mix of plastic, metal, and hazardous materials.

The UK is the world’s second-largest producer of e-waste, just behind Norway. Around 36,681 tonnes of household waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) or 23.9kg per capita are created annually. Responsible e-waste management by homes and businesses is vital to save energy, resources, and the environment.

Discover everything you need to know about e-waste recycling in this guide to ensure your old electronics are disposed of properly. For a free quote for the collection of e-waste from your business or home call 0333 444 0118 or contact us online today.

A Guide to E-Waste Recycling, Disposal, and Management

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What is e-waste?

E-waste or WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) is anything with a plug, cord, battery, or other electronic components that’s no longer needed. It’s a wide term that covers all sorts of items including mobile phones and computers to fridges, torches, and lamps.

Unlike paper waste that’s often made from one material, e-waste contains many different elements. These can include plastic, metals, and hazardous materials like lead, cadmium, and beryllium. Removing valuable elements and ensuring the safe recycling and disposal of e-waste is essential to avoid hazardous materials causing harm.

Examples of e-waste include:

Causes of e-waste

When any electronic device or product reaches the end of its life it becomes e-waste. As more electrical items are produced and used in our daily and working lives we’re creating more e-waste than ever. There are two main reasons for this and causes of e-waste:

  • Broken and damaged electricals – wear and tear, accidents, or excessive use can damage or break electronics eventually. This causes e-waste if the items can’t be fixed. In many cases it’s also cheaper to buy a new or replacement item rather than paying to repair the original anyway.
  • Outdated products and updated equipment – electronic devices are being improved all the time and many people and businesses want the latest models. Upgrading to a new mobile phone or set of laptops for the office causes e-waste as you’re left with the old ones.
broken mobile phones.

E-waste problems

The main problems with e-waste are that there’s so much of it and lots of it may be hazardous and toxic. Most electronics contain plastic, silicone, metal, and hazardous elements such as lead and mercury. Valuable non-renewable materials like gold, silver, and platinum are also used in many electronics.

Throwing away e-waste in landfill means needlessly disposing of precious finite metals and risks toxic substances leaching into the ground and contaminating nearby water sources. They also take up valuable space when many electronics can be repaired, recycled, and reused. For these reasons, responsible e-waste disposal is vital for businesses and households.

How to dispose of e-waste

Various methods of e-waste disposal and recycling should avoid it going to landfill. How you dispose of e-waste can depend on the types of electronic items you’re getting rid of and whether it’s from home or as a business. Here are a few ways to dispose of domestic and commercial e-waste:

How to dispose of 
electronic waste at home

The size and type of electronic waste you have affect your options for how to best dispose of it. You should not put any e-waste in your household recycling bin or general waste bin. Instead, consider any of the following options to dispose of e-waste from your home:

  • Deposit at an electrical bank – many towns, cities, and villages have electrical banks where you can recycle small items such as mobile phones, laptops, and even kettles. Often these are found in council and supermarket car parks near bottle banks. Look for your nearest electrical bank online.
  • Visit your local HWRC – most household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) have large electrical banks where you can recycle small and big items, from old TVs and computers to microwaves and washing machines. You’ll need a vehicle to transport your waste and most only accept domestic e-waste.
  • Sell – make a bit of money getting rid of a working electrical product by selling it online on sites such as eBay, Gumtree, and Facebook Marketplace.
  • Donate – for any electronic products that still work safely you could donate to a charity shop, friends, or family. This could be when you’re upgrading to a newer model, moving home, or simply no longer need the item.
  • Repair the item – if your electronic device isn’t working you could pay for someone to repair it. This prevents creating e-waste, saves on materials, and should be cheaper than buying a replacement. Take it to an electronics shop or search for a specialist online.
  • Exchange – some retailers offer an exchange service if you buy a new product from them (they might take your old TV when buying a new one, for example). Many are part of the retailer take-back scheme with more than 10,000 drop-off points across the UK.
  • Arrange collection – for large electronic items (white goods, TVs, and computers), you might want to arrange collection by a licensed waste carrier. Some councils offer this service but there’s normally a charge. Alternatively, at Divert we can collect all sorts of e-waste from homes to recycle and dispose of away from landfill. Contact us for a free quote.

How to dispose of 
electronic waste as a business

Any e-waste produced by a business classes as commercial waste. This could be a load of old computers if you’re upgrading your office equipment, a faulty dishwasher in a restaurant kitchen, or simply a broken lamp from a hotel bedroom. E-waste from a business ready for disposal must be collected by licensed waste carriers.

If you’re upgrading items and the ones you’re getting rid of are in safe working order then you could consider donating them to a charity or selling them. It might also be cheaper (and better for the environment) to pay for repairs to any electronic products that have stopped working if possible.

Should the electronic waste be at the end of its life then you’ll have to book collection by licensed waste carriers, such as with Divert. Provide details about the types and amount of e-waste you need removing, where from, and when to get a free quote and arrange a collection time.

old and broken TVs at a landfill site.

How is e-waste recycled?

E-waste recycling is more complex than recycling other materials such as cardboard, paper, and glass due to the different components and hazardous elements. Any e-waste collected from a business or home is taken to a specialist waste management facility for e-waste recycling.

Firstly, all the e-waste is sorted by type. The items are examined and any that still work may be removed and reused or repaired. Other functional parts are extracted and either sold or used to create new items. Valuable elements such as any precious metals might also be removed.

The e-waste that’s left is then de-manufactured – disassembled into its components. This removes any potentially hazardous materials, which are disposed of with other hazardous waste. Then the rest is shredded, and an industrial magnet is used to separate ferrous metals (like iron and steel), which are recycled with other metals. Further separation occurs and the likes of plastic and glass are recycled.

E-waste management for businesses

At Divert we can collect a wide range of e-waste from businesses. Enjoy reliable and responsible e-waste management for your organisation whether you need a one-off removal or regular collections. Get started with a free no-obligation quote for electronic waste removal and disposal with all waste diverted away from landfill.

Arrange e-waste collection for your business today or book a one-off domestic removal – call 0333 444 0118 or contact us online.

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Get a free quote

Get a quick FREE quote for your e-waste

  • Quick quote within 1 hr
  • All types of e-waste
  • Claim your free bins
  • Nationwide coverage