Repair or recycle your old electronics

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Repair or recycle your old electronics

E-waste (electronic waste) is the fastest growing waste stream in the world (CarbonAction). In 2022 alone 5.3 billion mobile phones (The WEEE Forum) were set to be thrown away.  Most of us have a habit of hoarding tech when it’s broken, not needed or we get a shiny new upgrade, we get might need it one day!  But here’s the catch, these devices could have huge value going to use. They also contain valuable materials that are ideal for recycling at the end of their life.

Here are fuss-free ways to make tech go further. 

These tips are part of something bigger. At Hubbub, we want to see a world where everyone makes choices that are good for the environment. Check out what we do and how your actions add up.

The science says we should keep products for at least 7 years (The Jump). It can be tempting to replace our tablet, smart watch, smartphone for an upgraded model, sometimes as often as every couple of years. So try and succumb to the ads and billboards and stick with what you have! Hinge looks the same whatever the model...just saying.If you do need a change, why not try to repair products, borrow them, rent them, buy second hand (think Backmarket, Reboxed, Born Good) or if you really need something then keep new items to a minimum.

Hoarding an old phone in your drawer? Give it a good home with our Community Calling campaign. Phones are data wiped, cleaned and passed on with 6-months' worth of free data to support people who are digitally isolated, such as those facing homelessness, refugees, families fleeing domestic violence, adults with learning disabilities and more. Find out how to gift your phone here, and hear the difference your phones are making.

For household tech, the British Heart Foundation accepts donations of working electronics with plugs. 

You might be able to sell working items to gadget shops such as CEX, Reboxed or Facebook Marketplace or network providers like O2 Recycle for a bit of cash, or give them away on local reuse networks like Freecycle, Freegle, Streetbank or OLIO, where people can even come and collect items from you. How easy is that? Remember to clear your data from any smart tech like phones, laptops and watches though before.

Sometimes there are simple fixes we can do ourselves, like repairing lost feet on laptops  and fixing snapped headphones.  If you’re interested in learning how to fix more gadgets, here’s a repairing guide for beginners.

For more complex issues we recommend taking your tech to an expert! Your local gadget shop or the provider of your tech may have a repair service. Repair Cafes or Repair Parties are great places to go to get help fixing everything from toasters to laptops.

If you’re sure your tech is beyond repair, it might be best broken down for recycling to reclaim the materials. So, what can be recycled? Batteries: these are dangerous and can cause fires or leak toxic chemicals when in the bin, so make sure they end up in a battery collection point where valuable heavy metals can be extracted and recycled.Small electronics: an item can be recycled if it (Recycle Now): 

  • Has a plug 
  • Has batteries  
  • Needs charging  
  • Has a waste icon with a wheelie bin crossed out  
  • Don’t forget your wires and cables – these can contain copper, steel and aluminium.   

Most councils don’t accept small electrical items in kerbside recycling so the best option is a household recycling centre, or check if your local library or larger supermarket collects smaller electrical items. Currys/PC World  offer a free recycling service for smaller electronics, whether you bought it in-store or not. 

For anything else, use your postcode to check your location for local recycling facilities (Recycle Now) and what to do with your items.

Someone holding their phone and smiling in front of a mural.

Creating wider change

How can policy help support better design and the right to repair? Find out more about what Green Alliance are doing, and what we can do here.

Making waves in the workplace

Does your workplace have a scheme for old company smartphones? If not, they could become a Community Calling partner to make sure they’re passed on sustainably. We also have other options for businesses to support the campaign as part of their sustainability initiatives and targets.. Get in touch if you’re interested.

If they're not able to support in an official capacity, you could spread the word across colleagues, family and friends about Community Calling, the power their tech has and how they can reduce e-waste too!

What happened when Hubbub tried it?

Since 2020, over 15,000 unused smartphones with free data have been rehomed through Community Calling, reducing e-waste and providing digitally isolated people with connectivity to vital services. Win, win. Every smartphone saved 54kg CO2 emissions compared to buying new. Share your unused phone and see how people's lives can be transformed.

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