BT reveals a third of the UK still don’t know how to recycle unwanted electronics

  • Four out of ten Brits (41%) have cupboards, drawers or bags full of electrical waste

  • Nearly a third (31%) admit they don’t know how to recycle e-waste

  • Research comes as BT recycled nearly a million pieces of equipment, saving 11,430 tonnes of carbon dioxide, as calculated by the Carbon Trust

31st August 2021, London. New research from BT has revealed that almost half all of Brits (41%) say they have cupboards, drawers or bags full of unwanted electrical waste as nearly a third (31%) don’t know how to recycle it. The news comes as BT reveals it has recycled nearly a million pieces of BT equipment since the start of 2020, preventing nearly 170 tonnes of electrical waste from going to landfill, equivalent to the weight of 13 double-decker buses¹.

The research found that the most common items Brits don’t know how to recycle are printers (31%), cables (30%) and hair dryers (29%), all of which can be recycled. Nearly three quarters (74%) admit to having chucked electronics into black bin liners, committing the goods to landfill rather than taking them to be recycled. More than half (55%) engaged in ‘wishful recycling’ – throwing unwanted electronics into the recycling bin in the hope they’ll reach a recycling centre.

When it comes to good intentions, younger people are getting in a tangle over unwanted electronics, with nearly twice as many 16 to 24 year olds (40%) unsure what to do when it comes to recycling e-waste, compared to those over 55 (21%). The vast majority of 16 to 24 year olds (85%) have thrown electronics in regular bins compared to 51% of those 55 and over. Two thirds (68%) of 16 to 24 year olds have also placed electronics amongst other recycling, compared to 32% of those 55 and over.

Matthew Hughes, Director of Broadband at BT, said, “We made some changes in 2019 that make it compulsory to return broadband routers to us after use, which has really boosted our recycling efforts. Thanks to these changes and the commitment of our customers, we’ve prevented the release of 11,430 tonnes of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of 6,000 flights from London to Tokyo¹.”

Andie Stevens, Associate Director at the Carbon Trust Advisory, ICT sector lead said, “BT makes it easy for customers to return unwanted and unneeded equipment, preventing tonnes of electrical waste and plastic from going to landfill. The recycling and refurbishment programme is a great initiative, demonstrating the commitment to circularity and achieving long-term sustainability goals by reducing the carbon intensity of products.”

BT estimates hundreds of thousands of items of unused electronic equipment in customers' homes could be refurbished and recycled. 

It's easy for customers to return their equipment to BT: more information is here.

Notes to editors

Research based on nationally representative sample of c.3,600 GB adults – August 2021.

¹ Figures provided by the Carbon Trust

The top 10 old electrical items the nation stores unused at home:

  • Cables (44%)

  • Remote controls (41%)

  • Hair dryers (39%)

  • Wired headphones (38%)

  • Printers (35%)

  • Games consoles (32%)

  • Broadband hub (29%)

  • TV set-top boxes (27%)

  • Smart speakers (26%)

  • Wi-Fi extenders (21%)

For general information on how to recycle electrical items; contact your local authority or for details of local Household Waste Recycling Centres where small electrical items can be recycled visit Recycle Now for England




BT’s commitment to climate action:

  • As part of the transition to a low carbon business model, BT has pledged to become a net zero carbon emissions business by 2045

  • Since 2016/17, BT has reduced the carbon emissions intensity of its operations by 57% and has reduced supply chain emissions by 19% over the same timeframe.

  • BT is now using 100% renewable electricity worldwide, which means consumers who buy mobile or broadband from EE, BT or Plusnet are supplied by networks that are powered by 100% clean power.

  • With the second largest commercial fleet in the UK, the company has also outlined plans to transition the majority of its 33,000 vehicles to electric or zero carbon models by 2030.

  • For more information about BT's work on Digital Impact and Sustainability please visit: Digital impact & sustainability | BT Plc

About the Carbon Trust:

Established in 2001, the Carbon Trust works with businesses, governments and institutions around the world, helping them contribute to, and benefit from, a more sustainable future through carbon reduction, resource efficiency strategies, and commercialising low carbon businesses, systems and technologies.

About BT

BT Group is the UK’s leading telecommunications and network provider and a leading provider of global communications services and solutions, serving customers in 180 countries. Its principal activities in the UK include the provision of fixed voice, mobile, broadband and TV (including Sport) and a range of products and services over converged fixed and mobile networks to consumer, business and public sector customers. For its global customers, BT provides managed services, security and network and IT infrastructure services to support their operations all over the world. BT consists of four customer-facing units: Consumer, Enterprise, Global and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Openreach, which provides access network services to over 650 communications provider customers who sell phone, broadband and Ethernet services to homes and businesses across the UK.

For the year ended 31 March 2021, BT Group’s reported revenue was £21,331m with reported profit before taxation of £1,804m.

British Telecommunications plc is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

For more information, visit www.bt.com/about